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tv   In Depth Brad Meltzer  CSPAN  December 8, 2018 9:00am-12:04pm EST

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to that the, because that still goes on. that sort of notion that people look at the color of your skin, and they make assumptions about who you you are. they didn't know our values, they didn't know that we were kids striving to be good, that our father was working hard. they can't care. they were running from our race, and we still do that. >> and that was just a portion of her talk in new york city. watch for more in-depth coverage of michelle obama's book tour saturday, december 15th, at 8 p.m. and sunday, december 16th, at 10 p.m. eastern on booktv. .. and recently published thriller "the escape artist" which debuted at number one on the new york times bestseller list.
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brad meltzer is the author of the ordinary people change biography series for children in the upcoming nonfiction title the first conspiracy, the secret plot to kill george washington. >> host: brad meltzer, thank you for joining us on "in depth" on c-span2, booktv. he wrote the following. i believe every book is born to be read. it is this book that helped me realize the difference between being alive and actually living. the book is called "the escape artist". explain. >> i wish i was smart enough to figure out the theme when i start, this is going to be the book about i need to figure out the difference between being alive and actually living. but i am not. i finished the book and got to the end of it and started looking at it and going this is what i'm dealing with with my own life. my parents both passed away and i thought i was over it. i had written four books to deal with it but when i got to
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the end, it was a point of dealing with the death of my parents and the point of me, looking and saying you go through that horror. all of us have those moments maybe from addiction or abuse or the loss of a loved one but we are in that hole and you have to climb out of it and "the escape artist" was the way i got out of it. harry houdini was so obsessed with death that he gave his family and friends codewords that they would know if they came back to life in a séance he would know it was them. here is your codeword, your co-word is librarian. that i know it is really my friend steve. he was assessed with his mother's death, could never get over it but the single word he gave his own mother before she died was this word, forgive.
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the most powerful word, one of the most powerful words in the english language. for all of us who are in these holes, whatever brings you in it, when you want to escape, be the escape artist, you have to use harry houdini's greatest magic, you've got to forgive. that is where "the escape artist" flew over me. this is my need, why this book exists. >> host: you have written a dozen fiction books. where does the creativity come from? >> guest: after 20 years of doing this, i am not that special. i just know that if i love something there have got to be other people who like it as much. that is what happened with "the escape artist". i went for the uso brings six thriller writers to entertain our troops and i was honored to do it, to go over there and it was amazing but when i got there i heard about dover air force base. we heard about dover, even if you didn't know the name you
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know those flag covered coffins, you recognize those pictures and i was like this place is going to be incredible to write about. when i got there i realized i thought it was going to be a transaction, the white house or the capital, i will go in and write a book, but when i got to dover it was different. i was humbled by what i saw. the men and women who work on the bodies there will spend 12 hours rewiring someone's job, so the family could get a good look at their son. rebuilding someone's hand from scratch because a mother did that. i don't care what your politics are. whatever side you are on. these men and women are the best on the best of us working on the best of the best of us.
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the creativity came from this moment, this is spectacular, got to write about this place and on the story side i take my plots and give them to the people who work there. in the case of "the escape artist" i went to one of the top morticians and met a lot of them and ask them all the same person, and a hidden note inside someone's body, put a tattoo on someone, and see someone pass a note. that was all i had. they said to me in this is true. if you eat a note and you are on a plane, the liquid in your stomach will protect that note upon the crash. that is a really cool idea, it is not an idea, it really happened. it really happened. i said no it didn't. they told me that, opened of someone's summit, there was a
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note inside. and as the plane is going down. that person is doing what we all do. i love that idea, you can be heard, our hero zig opens up the body of a woman he knows when she was little, she is a young soldier, the note says something mysterious, she is not dead, she is the escape artist, that is chapter 1 of the book. the real plot has a real idea, making sure i can fill those
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in, that is the greater process. >> >> you take real-life events and weave them into fiction. >> at that point i told you chapter 1, i could start the book. i've been at this 20 is, i can build the book on that. i had a literary midlife crisis and my crisis was. figuring out as they go. how do i get better? that is what i was assessed with. how do i get better. i took a hard look at all the fiction books i have written and which is the best one? i want them all to be the best but they can't be. i went back and identified three ones, these are the best and what do they have in common? a character.
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we all know, 1 million books are written about magical people that we love harry potter because we love harry and ron and hermione. i realize don't start this book. if you start you got your plot, but don't start this until you have that woman on the table. i was at a base in virginia and they were giving me a tour and i saw an army base, they had all these paintings on the wall. why does the us military have all this? they had paintings by all these top military people and they said to me since world war i the u.s. army had an actual painter on staff, who paints disasters as they happen, you are telling me -- whether it is storming the beaches of normandy, vietnam, 9/11, you
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are telling me as everyone is racing with guns blazing we have someone racing in with nothing but paintbrushes in their pockets? that is the craziest guy in the world and he says to me you want to meet her. oh, of course, a woman and right there the character with nola brown was born. i love that people compared to the girl with the dragon tattoo. i will take the compliment but that character was born. the character races and disasters because she's running from her own. >> host: your first book, 1997, "the tenth justice," was that the most difficult for you? >> guest: the most difficult was before that. the first book i ever wrote was a book that i wrote out of college quickly got me 24 rejection letters. 20 publishers at the time, i got 24 rejection letters meaning people writing to me twice to make sure i got the point.
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a love letter to write, me pouring myself out but what was so hard was the rejection, 24 rejections. when "the tenth justice" came, the fact that it even got published was a thrill to me. it was like catnip. i couldn't wait to get to everything a page. i could have edited the book for ten more years because i was so excited for the world to see it. the first one is not the hard one. it is the second one after one has seen, and after you've gotten your bad reviews. >> host: you have had a few bad reviews. >> guest: i love my bad reviews. my thing is the inherent flaw in any critic is that they are human. i remember that the 10th justice, i was 27 years old
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when it came out it made the bestseller list was i didn't know what the bestseller list was at that time. i remember watching, the fax machine came through and saw it on the bestseller list and at that moment, i turned to my wife. i turned to my wife and everyone said the book was great, we have vanity fair, time magazine, i turned to my wife and said let the backlash begin. right after that the next week, entertainment weekly gave me a d plus on the same exact book. i was like i had to embrace it. i did a whole video showcasing them because i was like you got to take it publicly. >> host: bread's writing is good and original but when he is good he is not original and what is original is not good.
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>> guest: that was for my 40th birthday. that's not even -- i had much worse reviews than that. i am born on april fools' day and my wife for my 40th birthday reached out to all my other friends and said i want you to write the worst review of brad you can write so my friend, they wrote ruthless, ruthless reviews and they were spectacular. one of my favorites set i love brad's book, i use them all the time as toilet paper. i was like that is so creative it was great. the best part is that got picked up in the la times, my agent called me early in the morning, it was my birthday and said did you see what happened?
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it was a funny practical joke. she says but i thought it was real. you are my agent. you are the one representing me. what do you mean you thought it was real? i love those. >> host: david ball dodgy, the art lincoln of crappy fiction. >> guest: you give writers a chance they will show off their creativity. >> host: do you ever have writers block? >> guest: i have days, i don't know what writers block is in terms of a specified thing. i have days but don't go as well as others which i have days when i sit there and go it is not coming today and other days i feel it is flowing completely. on those days the first thing i do is i get up and leave where i'm sitting if i really stuck. the phone all the rings when you are in the shower, you got to go initial shower and the phone rings. if i walk around the block, one thing i will do is i won't give up on it. i will sit in that seat even if
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the seat is around the block until i can do it because the only way to write is you got to write. writing a novel is like building a sand castle. on the first day, you put on the one grain of sand you've got nothing, the second day you've got nothing, two pieces next to each other but you do it every year, write a page a day every year you will have a book. that is the key to doing it. >> host: let's turn from fiction to nonfiction. this is a letter the outgoing president, george herbert walker bush, left in the oval office to the incoming president, bill clinton. a letter that he gave you. dear bill. when i walk into this office just now i felt the same sense of wonder and respect that i felt four years ago. i know you will feel that too. i wish you great happiness here. i never felt the loneliness some presidents have described, they will meet tough times even more difficult by criticism. you may not think is fair.
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i am not very good at giving advice but don't let the critics discourage you or push you off course. you will be our president when you read this note. i wish you well. i wish your family well, your success is our country's success. i'm rooting hard for you. good luck, george. >> there is the man right there. here's what happens. many years ago i got a family, greatest samurai ever got, from president george hw bush writing is a stranger. i thought it was fake. when i was 18 years old my first job was in washington. i used to work at the senate judiciary committee as an intern. we used to take the senator's pen signing machine and the stationary from the senate judiciary committee and i would write my friends and tell them they were being deported and i live in miami. that works. they believe it. i thought this is a mistake, this is my friends playing a joke on me. i thought it was so fake that i
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called the president's office in houston and said someone on staff asked for a signed copy. you got the president's letter. it was him. i got to meet president bush and mrs. bush. we became dear friends. we had a fun time together and i told president bush i was researching a book on former presidents and i said i loved when i met him, the fact he was writing to me shows how bored he was. how bored are you that you are writing letters to novelists? it is so amazing to me that you are the most powerful man in the world one day and the next day you have to stop at red lights. imagine right now if someone told you, you have peaked. everything you have done in the world after this moment is going to be downhill. it won't be as good as it was today. that is what it is like to be a former president. i was shocked by what it does to your psyche. i would love to see what your life is like. he said why don't you come to
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houston for the week and hang out with us for the week. unprecedented access, great time together. when i started writing the book it became the book of faith which is my first book about this former president. i was working on another book after that when i heard the story about these letters ronald reagan when he left the oval office left a secret letter for george hw bush that said don't let the turkeys get you down. put it in the oval office desk and when bush left a letter for clinton, left one for w, obama, trump, the greatest modern tradition. i said to him could you hide secret messages in those letters? that is what i wrote him and asked. he would help with different books and different questions that only he would know the answers to. even the secret service worked on these. i opened my email and it said the president wants you to have
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this. this was a decade ago. i checked the attachment. it was the letter you just read. a secret note he left for bill clinton. my first thought was it is a secret code. i checked to see freemason codes, checked to see if the first every word that i hate you, bill. i was checking everything. at that moment he should have hated bill clinton. clinton just beat him to the presidency, he should have hated him. and he wrote what you just read, the most generous letter, i'm rooting for you, your success is our country's success. and it was an incredibly humble thing put on paper. his biographer was mad too. why, you didn't give that letter to me? why did you give it to brad meltzer? to this day i don't know why he gave it to me but he gave it to me all those years ago and i love the fact we were the first to bring it out and announce that. >> host: did you ask them that? >> guest: i never asked him. i felt it would be rude to say why did you give it to me, sir?
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the only thing i thought george bush would say, was thank you. i always thanked him for his kindness to me, was beyond what was even normal. mrs. bush too. we had this wonderful relationship. mrs. bush and i, what i loved about her, she reminded me of my mom. my mom was one of those people who didn't care if you are the king of england or the person who was sweeping the floor. if you didn't have something interesting to say, get out of my face. she wasn't impressed, didn't care what your title was or your money, get away from me. are you interesting or not? she didn't care where you were on the social ladder and i loved that. we would sit together and laugh. they invited me to a private lunch at the white house when w was president and it wasn't a big open area where the state dinners are. it was the president's private dining room.
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when you go there, it is a serious thing. you don't just pick the seat, there are 10 or 15 people in the whole room. they tell you where you're going to sit. there is a little card that says brad meltzer has a beautiful engraving of the white house. my first thought was i am totally stealing my card and mrs. bush leans over and says all the novices want to steal their cards, all those novices, ruth bader ginsburg and i had my card but she knew that was fun and we had a great time. >> when was the last time you saw president bush? >> i saw him just a few weeks ago. in kennebunkport we were doing an event to honor mrs. bush on her passing. they told me when i got there that he was going to be
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probably asleep and he was sleeping a lot at that point. we all knew it was a matter of time but they said he has moments of clarity. an hour a day. we had one of those moments. i got to thank him and say goodbye. this was maybe a month or two ago. we all knew what was coming but there was nothing like the kindness, if you did a search on all the things that have been said about him, look how many times the word decency is mentioned. part of it is because that is who he was and part of it is as a country that is what we need and we miss. don't care what your politics are or what side of the aisle you are on, we are not as a culture talking to each other decently anymore. anyone the opposite of your political opinion you hate. it is us versus them. they did this, they did that, whatever side you are on. i am tired of us versus them. time to get back to the way
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george bush may he rest in peace was buried. >> host: who is responsible for that tone? >> he is responsible for that tone. barbara bush -- >> the negative tone. wikipedia it starts at the top. i always say, people want to blame the media. the media does this, the media does that, but the stories on but if we don't watch them as culture, as viewers, if we say no, the media will stop doing it. you can't force-feed people that. there has to be an appetite for it. it is easy to blame the president, the democrats, the media, the viewer, facebook and we blame everything except the one thing we should always do, the only way the world ever changes as gandhi taught, we start by changing the world by changing your self. of every single person took a moment and looked at themselves and said how do i make the
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world a better place? i am going to stop forwarding nonsense that makes me mad. i will stop saying the words them when i am angry. i will stop writing mean things on twitter, the world will change. the question is do we have someone who can lead us and show us that is the answer? >> host: show to follow us on facebook and also twitter at booktv, 3 hours with brad meltzer. you have written a dozen plus books. >> guest: i have written 12 thrillers, 16 kids books, nonfiction, comic books, and some really funny limericks and birthday cards. >> host: we will talk about all of it. 202-748-8200 for those in eastern and central time zone, 202-748-8201 in the mountain and pacific time zones and we will take your comments on facebook and you can send an email to booktv@c-span.org. let's talk about "the book of fate". ron boyle dies at the beginning of the book but does he?
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>> guest: i was writing about a former president. i had written about the white house before. this is probably my favorite chapter 1s i have ever written and it opens up at a nascar race and our hero, that body person for the president. every president has one. them just left the oval office, clinton had a bunch, obama had a bunch but it was truly there, the guy who handed the president what he needs. he needs chapter, he has got chapter, he has a headache, i got your advil. you have a pen to sign the baby's for had, there is. you are right there with the president, the first person with history as it is made and loved that job and the person who has that job, i study the mall. i met all of them going back to president bush and interviewed all of them. every single one i could find. one thing in common, they all
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entice to greatness. right there with the president, my friend, one of the top people in starbucks and others, my friend tommy works in the financial world, this is the start of your life and i love that job. what happens is in chapter 1, the president's guy, going everywhere, everything will go great and a crazy person pulled out a gun at a nascar race announcing the start of the race and he goes to shoot the president and he shoots the president's chief of staff, ron boyle, he misses the president and hits ron boyle and another hits our hero in the face. in that moment all of his dreams die and what you find out, that is the end of chapter 1. ron boyle dies but he comes back to life. what you see in chapter 2 is a
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decade later, west's life is not turned out grand. giants cars across his face from that day, the president at that moment grabbed, trying to look and dodge the bullet had this moment he looked like a coward. he still pictures snapped and he looked like a coward. anyone who thought this man they call leland the lion is a coward, his presidency tanks from that moment and now he is an ex-president, former president and life is terrible and boring and no one cares about you anymore and you are not on the news anymore and that is what it is like to be out of the white house and he's backstage doing one of the president's high-powered speeches and in the backdrop, backstage is ron boyle, the man who died a decade earlier. he stops and goes what the hell is going on? that is a dead man. he is alive. what happened? finding out and what happened
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to rob boyle, chapter 1 and 2, finding out what happened is the ability, my session lately, to try to come back to his own life and figure out it is not the end of it but the beginning. it was president bush who helped. all the research you see in that book is based on my time in president bush's office. the layout of his office is he is houston office and all the details. i loved doing "the book of fate," really see what life is like. >> host: what happens? wikipedia >> guest: i don't want to ruin the ending. one of my favorite things in that book, i will ruin this, it hinges on two things. the person who killed him is a guy who hates the freemasons. if you look, there are eight signers of the declaration of
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independence, 9 signers of the u.s. constitution, 14 different times freemasons have been president and taken the white house. i love dealing with the secrets of the freemasons in that book. one of the other things i put in is the secret code thomas jefferson used to use when he was president. he used a secret code when he was president so people couldn't see, he ranks all his staffers, used a secret code no one knew what he thought of those men, whether they were trustworthy or not trustworthy. i love that, the president using a secret code. president clinton had me come to his office in harlem while researching that book. what was great about that book is i'm not one of those people who think the freemasons are trying to take over the world or stealing your car. there are friends of mine who worked on a number of books right now but there are some secrets, the best thing that happened out of that book is the head of the history channel read "the book of fate" and he said to me i love the secret code thomas jefferson was using
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the freemasons secrets, we want to do a tv show based on this book and that is how we got decoded, our first television show on the air. it was the time of the da vinci code and they were capitalizing on the love of freemasonry and all that. what you want to rip off dan brown? it is wonderful but why just take that? what would you do? why don't we do this instead? in the 1700s when the first piece of the white house was put down it was put down in a freemason ceremony and all the freemasons gathered and put down the first piece of the white house in 24 hours that first piece of the white house, no one knows this moment where the cornerstone of the white house actually is. everyone from harry truman to barbara bush went searching for it and no one has been able to find it to this day. why don't we do an episode where we try to find that? they were like we like that.
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in the fictional world you can do these nonfiction things so we started the show decoded. give us tween 9 more of those. the "the book of fate," the only book it ever got me a tv show. >> host: in the last 12 months dan o'connell has taken fiction authors, read them and provided questions. one thing he is asking about is the climax of "the inner circle" at the national archives, a facility that was built underground. how many of these facilities does the national archive actually operate? >> guest: this was my favorite, this scene, the national archive is one of the great places in washington dc with the declaration of independence, the u.s. constitution, the magna carta.
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and the archives, the archivist of the united states runs an incredible place. ones i was there, he taught me there is so much stuff they can't just put into one building so there are hidden caves across the country that house our documents. not that bruce wayne did it in batman which we do. the temperature in a cave can make sure, keep it cool like that, then have air conditioning. they are in st. louis and all over the place and they let me go see them and i want to check them. there are not one or two but many and there are ones at the library of congress that have old film, old recordings, ones that have military documents and a place called iron
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mountain, an incredible underground, truly a mountain carved out of the mountain built underground and went downward and when you get there, army records are there, navy, air force, marines, national archives. as you walk through these caves, each cutaway where you think you will see, you're literally walking through and see the army logo in the navy logo, here's the pentagon and down there, some of the great pictures of marilyn monroe, photos from the moon. they protect all these original photographs. our history is underground, an amazing place. i got there and i have to write about this. what you see down there is absolutely real. >> host: how did you come up with beecher white? >> guest: he is the hero of this book. beecher came a few years ago, i got a call from the department
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of homeland security to come in and brainstorm ways terrorists attack the united states. my first thought is if they are calling me we have bigger problems than anybody think. if you think the country is crazy now, they are calling fiction writers but i was honored to do it. they called brad for, his producers and directors, secret service agent and chemist, they would give us a target like washington dc, destroy it, i would come up with my way to destroy, the secret service agent says here's a better way through security. the chemist would say let's use this chemical instead. it will dissipate less quickly in the air and do more damage. we would destroy a place like washington in a matter of an hour and you don't go home feeling good. you go home terrified as you realize how easy it is. i love doing it and what i was struck by was why me? why did they call me of all people? why pick a fiction writer?
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i trace it back through history to a man named george washington. george washington found out had his own secret, literally, crazy to me it still happens but he had a secret group, his own secret spy ring made of ordinary people. he had military people but everyone knew who his military people were so if you wanted to know who it was follow them and that is in the book and i realized no one looks twice, at an ordinary person. that is a good idea. i went to my friend in homeland security and said what if you find out george washington's by ring still exists to this very day? he said to me what makes you think it doesn't? i said that's a good idea for a book. what if you have this kid who was an archivist who loves history, love diving into history and find out george washington's by ring still
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exists to this day. they are housed in the national archives. beecher wright was born by my time with amazing people at the national archives and board truthfully out of minority side. he was the first character i wrote where i don't think i'm a better writer over the years but what i am is a more honest writer. if you look at any interview i did the first five years or ten years how are things going? everything is great. i love this book and everything is wonderful, we will take it one day at a time. that is what i did. but so terrified of complaining, i just thought i am so lucky and blessed to have this job where i talk to imaginary people, how can i. and moan and complain? i wasn't honest about myself. i will put myself in these books, my love of history, my love of all things nerdy and that is beecher's side. it was me.
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that is what i built beecher out of. it was my first attempt to find an alter ego. >> host: we will get your calls in a moment. give us your biography, born in brooklyn, grew up in florida. >> guest: my dad lost his job when he was 39, had no many, $1200 to his name, started over from scratch, no job, no place to live, we were worried about our own safety, what are we going to do? he moved us to florida, the do over of life. when i got to florida, gave a fake address to go to the local public school, changed my life and from there i heard of a great thing called college. i didn't even know, i said i don't know how i am going to get there but i am taking it and i will be the first in my family to go to a 4-year college. i went to university of michigan and columbia law school and a job working for
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steagall who said i will be your mentor and come to boston and he left the job. and and and fell in love with the process. >> >> i want to say thank you to booktv. this is such an interesting conversation. it is transcending nonfiction. i did want to mention, i loved decoded. i loved idiotic. i found it interesting that hw bush send you that letter after you asked about the ability of one president to send a message
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to another especially, because of his association with the cia and skull and bones so i was wondering if you looked at it through that kind of a lens, especially due to your history of what you had written, due to conspiracy and that ability of secret things going on. and the signs of something. >> you have no idea how paranoid i am. i looked at every skull and bones quote and every code i could find. there is one who ran the cia, wasn't president of the united states, sends you a letter, when you got a good secret pay attention to the letter. sometimes a duck is a duck, cigar is just a cigar, and summit who writes a generous letter is just being the most generous man.
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that fuels all the books, even nonfiction. >> jim joining us from kentucky, good afternoon. >> i wanted to ask brad what he is currently reading? fiction or nonfiction, what books he might be reading and what his favorite novelist is and i thought he was going to be on and i read his latest book "the escape artist," i read it in two sittings it was so good i didn't want to put it down. it was like soft peanuts, didn't want to put it down and i loved it. i plan to read some more of his stuff. i went to know what is he reading right now as far as novels and nonfiction? >> guest: 5 bucks is in the mail to you for saying "the escape artist" is so awesome. my favorite author, i can't lie
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about this, is a guy named brad meltzer. sometimes i read his books, watches television shows incident mirror and you have done it again. obviously -- now my wife is rolling her eyes at home, why do you say stuff like this? it is funny. i read everything i read. every genre from young adults is thrillers. when i grew up it was agatha christie and judy bloom, i still think she is the grand dame down to starting with john grisham and when i was starting out. >> host: let me ask about murder at the vicar. >> guest: murder at the vicar was the first mystery that i ever read. i remember picking up agatha christie's murder at the vicarage and to this day i don't know what a vicarage is and don't wants to know, don't call in and tell me, i don't want to know. when i was reading it i was 10
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years old and i remember getting into that book and on that page was a dead body. i remember being shook by that. in that moment i asked myself the question i have been asking myself for over 20 years, who done it? it changed my life. the idea that there is this dead body and whodunit? when it comes to throw it today i have don't read many thrillers. i'm a mechanic in a rental, i'm not enjoying the ride, just looking for what is wrong with it. we will watch a movie, i was watching a movie with her and i said i got it, 10 minutes into the movie, i know who the killer is, do not say anything, i will kill you. i got it, i know who it is in the movie ends and she says were you right? i said my way was better. i can't help but rewrite those. jillian flynn is one of the great thriller writers today. i love my friends who do this,
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whether it is david baldacy or brad for or harlan coven. i will say i read a ton of nonfiction because of the george washington book we are working on which we will talk about soon. the next book is about a secret plot to kill george washington. i'm reading tons of biographies of george washington. and i'm tearing through billie jean king books, that tends to be where my reading goes, whatever hero or nonfiction person i am obsessed with. that is where i get thriller plots from. reading about george washington gives me the fact he wrote, researching a children's book, i am george washington, i find out he used to write in invisible ink and between lines of letters, that is where we
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get the phrase read between the lines, he would write in invisible ink between the lines. i wrote in the kids book you got to put that in and they were like you can't put it in. it is so cool and i'm reading the book with my son and he is like weight, george washington wrote in invisible ink? that is so cool. i know, isn't it so cool? i take these nonfiction ideas in the adult books and use them in the kids books and nonfiction books. >> host: you are a prolific tweeter. >> guest: i'm on twitter all the time. it is the one distraction i take for myself during the day. >> host: a couple tweets. what is one subject you haven't written about that you would love to put on paper even if for yourself or your family? >> people on twitter know me, they get in my brain. one day i want to write about my mom and dad. >> host: what were they like? >> my mother passed away, my
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mom, when orders was still around, the head of sales said your books so more than anywhere else, new york city, 8 million people in one place, the number one place my book sold was the florida border, where my mother used to work, single-handedly beat 8 billion new yorkers. my dad used to go to the local barnes & noble and he would be like where is brad meltzer's new book? we know he is your son, we know and the marketing plan was simple. my mother and father will do the job and god bless them they did.
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when they died i found, cleaning out her apartment, there were stacks of my books in the closet. they bought them all. they skyrocketed because they were secretly buying them and they didn't have a lot of money but they were still dying those books and i love to write about them. the stories are not in them. i wrote their obituaries but those stories are not about their ability to sell books but everything i am today, my sense of humor, confidence and everything i am is about that love my parents showered on me. >> host: this is from kathy anderson. two things. when will we see nola again and when will we see a brad meltzer movie? >> guest: the sql to "the escape artist" is coming, the creativity, nola is coming back.
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read "the escape artist," just out in paperback, perfect timing for the holidays and the second question was the movie. we are working on that too, not as far along as i wish we were but the next tv project we are doing is our im book, we are doing a pbs show. a number of years ago i was tired of my own kids looking at reality tv show stars and people who are famous for being famous and i have so many better things for them. we started with i -- i am amelia air heart and i am abraham lincoln. vital my daughter amelia air heart flew across the litigation, big deal, everyone flies across the atlantic what if i tell my daughter amelia air heart, this is true, when she was 7 years old build a homemade roller coaster in her backyard and came flying down
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the side as a 7-year-old. my daughter is like that is interesting. we start with i am amelia erhard, albert and - jackie robinson, albert einstein, my daughter loves sports, you want a sports hero, here's i am jackie robinson. this is what a real athlete hero looks like, not outscoring points the changing people's lives. that i am lucille ball, i wanted my daughter to have a female entertainment hero, not just famous for being thin and pretty, not just okay to be different but spectacular to be different. >> host: at 21 little tease. this video with you and barbara bush. >> guest: barbara bush and i, our favorite scene is the conveyor belt scene where she's eating all the chocolates but i won't give it away but if you have that senior head get ready. then i am helen keller where when she goes blind, this -- my
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name is helen. fuel these dots. that is my name. what is your name. watch my 17-year-old can close his eyes and feel the dots even though the book is for 5-year-olds and 10-year-olds but trying to see through someone else's eyes, besting a book can do but something amazing happened. as donald trump and hillary clinton were beating each other's heads in the election in november two years ago, two of our books took off more than others. i'm george washington and i am martin luther king jr.. what was amazing about it, it wasn't a democrat or republican thing. it was parents and grandparents were tired of turning on the tv and seeing politicians, what they wanted to show their kids were leaders. we know there's a difference between a politician and a leader and they were using our books to fight back. i am martin luther king jr. i am george washington. these books, here is what a
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real american leader looks like. we have done gandhi and harriet tubman. the newest book we just did was neil armstrong. look where the world is today. neil armstrong like george hw bush never used the word i. he used the word we. we did this. we accomplished it. he would say that about the space program. he would say -- not just talking about the astronauts but the scientists, the people who were the mathematicians, people who sowed his spacesuit together. right now as a culture we favor those whether on twitter or facebook who are good at getting attention for themselves, beat their chest and they look at me, the loudest out there. i am tired of that. i want to go back to times of neil armstrong when humility was a great american value. it should be again. it is no surprise the two big biographies this year were neil
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armstrong and mister rogers. people who were humble, that great thing. i want to teach my kids to be humble again and teach the value of hard work. neil armstrong when he was a little kid, his dream was to climb a silver maple tree in his backyard and it is like doing a puzzle, you got to grab this branch and that branch and shimmy up that way and engineer and figure out and engineer a solution and one day neil armstrong is a little boy, 11 years old climbing his maple tree and grabs a dead branch. the branch snaps and he falls to the ground, gets the wind knocked out of him, his sister comes running, i'm going to get mom. the most important thing he does one what i wrote for my kids, most important thing he does is gets back up again. and he starts saving money to get his pilot's license. he gets his pilot's license,
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before his drivers license. then he becomes a test pilot, becomes an astronaut, make that great leap for all mankind but the lesson in the book, i am neil armstrong, is you don't get to take all the giant leap until you take those thousands of smaller steps before it. that is the lesson we need to teach our kids. humble and hard-working and that is what we need to celebrate in the world today, that is what the entire i am series is about. we are doing i am billie jean king, i am sonja sotomayor, neil armstrong just came out and i am billie jean king. >> host: uf three children. what other ages? >> guest: my middle one is 13, they are 17 to 10. they are the reason for these books. they gave me a whole line to write about because i felt i wanted -- we all have a legacy. i love the fiction books. that is the house i built with
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my own hands but for me my greatest legacy will not be about writing. it will be my children. i wanted them to have heroes to look up to especially in today's times when we are starving for heroes. whatever your politics are we are starving, we need better heroes but they are there. they are there. just got to find them and teach your kids who they are. i love that people take our i am books, build libraries of real heroes, kids and grandkids, nieces and nephews. i love that this holiday season or the past halloween, all these kids write me letters, this is the first year my daughter didn't go as a princess thanks to your books, she went as amelia erhard or albert einstein or rosa parks. in my most necessary moment i could never anticipate i would be responsible for someone's howling costume.
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thanks to chris heliopolis, our amazing artist, kids followed up with these characters. he is the super star of the show and he has a style like charlie brown meets calvin and hobbes. his own different style, but kids love it. if you want your kids to be other devices and phones you got to give them something better to look at and thanks to chris we were able to do that. i love that. >> host: let's go to hugh joining us in ashland, virginia. you are on the air with brad meltzer. good afternoon. >> caller: good afternoon. i would like to share a tweet which reinforced a very important information, brad meltzer. related to what people accept in the media and the statement about being the change in the world as on the set and i want to praise c-span for always allowing all points of view to come fourth. to share a tweet related to what i would like to have
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proclaimed on december 12th as i love america day, clamped on the chaos and have people more reflective between thanksgiving and christmas, exactly who they are and what they are doing in this country taking personal responsibility bringing forth solutions that will benefit everyone. >> host: thank you. >> guest: we need i am america day every day. not just a day for that. that is our responsibility. being kind to each other and showing generosity. that shouldn't be an amazing thing. that should be being a human being. we lost sight of that. if you're going on social media and muting everyone who disagrees with you you are doing no favors to yourself, just living in a vacuum. you need to go out and follow people you don't like.
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see what they are seeing, what they are mad at. the only way out of an argument is to look for someone else's eyes and try to see their perspective. anyone you hate, anyone on the other side you hate, they hate you just as much but you are a nice person so maybe, just maybe it is you. maybe, just maybe you can take a look at your self and find some humanity there. there is nothing in the world, every single person you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. >> host: among your favorite books, are you there, god, it's me. >> guest: the best. judy bloom. my first love of books was comic books. that is what i love to read. of real books, after comics, was judy bloom. are you there, god, i love it so much, the millionaires is a character named fudge who is named after a fourth grade nothing character in superfudge.
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i've been hiding judy blue references in my books for years. the character answers the phone, you there, god, it is me, robert. i read that book because when i was obsessed with girls and needed a manual to help me figure out girls, she's writing about a subject i know nothing about. and one of my true literary heroes. >> you told the washington post the following, quote, history to me the giant game of telephone. and and the scariest is the true story. >> it is right where the next book is going. i don't know, do you have a date on that? i said that in 2013. having no idea, free social
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media, no idea where we are now. it seemed bold to say history is a game of telephone. every day we are living in a world, if you are watching, we are living in a different world than the one -- truly living in a different world, doing no favors for yourself. that game of telephone is faster on social media. misinformation, takes a retweet to put it out there. like wildfire. i still believe the scariest story ever is a true story. it is what led me a decade ago to find out about a plot to kill george washington and there is a real secret plot to kill george washington? i went looking for it and that is the next book because it scared me the idea, what if we
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lost in george washington at the time found out about the plot, gathered up those responsible who were trying to kill him but one of the ringleaders hung him in 20 the vision front of 20,000 people, the largest execution at that point in north american history. george washington brought the hammer down. do not mess with me. i'm george washington. he was not messing around and i love this story. the next book i'm doing comes out in a month, the first conspiracy, totally nonfiction. my first adult book that is nonfiction, the first conspiracy, the secret plot to kill george washington. >> host: who was the ringleader? >> guest: you will see who it is. one of them is the governor of new york, the mayor of new york. the ringleader hung with another guy, josh mentioned and i, he was one of the people
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working on our tv show together but the first conspiracy when you read it is so scary because you realize how close we were to not just losing the war but losing george washington and if we lose america we lose george washington. i found that story and that i got to do it. anyone looking for the great holiday thing and the president for anyone out there. the first conspiracy, those are the next books to come out. >> host: a phone call from tim in somerset, new jersey, welcome to the conversation. >> caller: good afternoon. i was curious to know what brad meltzer thinks of an article i read recently where the chinese government is going to survey all virtually every citizen in their country and then rate their behavior. what do you think of that and the circumstance factor into any sort of book he may one day
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right? >> guest: i never heard that story, i love that story. that is a crazy story. that is all we are, walking around with this data and like i said at the start of this, we are not that special. .. are but we all kind of act and love and care and have hopes and dreams, all of us. even the ones you don't like him you still do. the idea you can watch a pattern of behavior can you just proved a point the scary story you can tell is the real one. that's a a terrifying idea. i'm almost mad at you right now for because now i can't steal it and use it on my own. i'm going to look into that story. that's a good story. >> from portland, tennessee, jeff, you are next. good afternoon. >> caller: good afternoon. brad, this is really a great opportunity to be able to talk with you. i really want to thank c-span for having this opportunity and i'm a real big fan. my question is, are you going to
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be doing any more -- i have seen just about everything you've done and really looking forward to hoping your answer is going to be yes. >> i love you for asking. you are talking about, we did this tv show, the actual title is "brad meltzer's decoded." best title of all time. i said to my wife the other day, honey, what are we having for brad meltzer's dinner tonight? because last night we had brad meltzer's chicken and tonight i want to have brad meltzer's pasta. she said go sleep on brad meltzer's couch. it's my truly secret group and i have never given up on it. if you love "decoded" go on social media, go to at history, tell them you want it back. that's the only way you get it back. go on social media, make sure you tag the right thing, say you want "decoded" back. i'm so obsessed with doing it, the first conspiracy as a book, i wanted to do as a "decoded"
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episode. but we didn't have it so i'm doing it as a book version. the first episode is "decoded" in book form. if you want to know, join our invisible army. we have a group through my website, the invisible army. we actually have membership cards. that's how nerdy we are. this is a membership card to the invisible army. it literally has benefits that go with it. secret hand shakes and all sorts of stuff. they are the ones who see what we are working on first. >> what are the benefits? >> i can't tell you all the benefits. you have to become a member. i brought this card for you. i will tell you the benefit off the air. if you want a card, in fact, they just announced, you order the first conspiracy and on my twitter account, you will see, hit the link, upload the image that you preordered it and we will send you a card. it will be part of the invisible army. what i love, that's what we always tell all the secrets first. those people who love "decoded"
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stick with us. they have been with us for years. >> a number of tweets and e-mails on the same subject. you just answered that. >> about the invisible army or how to get the card? >> from the history channel. are there any additional titles you would consider working on, dc? >> you mean dc comics. those who don't know, i write comic books as well. they are my first love. the first things i ever read. i love the thrillers, i love the kids' books, i love the first conspiracy, but when i get to sit in my house and i get to put words in batman's mouth, i'm wearing my underwear on the outside of my pants that day. that's just the best day of all. i love tha get to do that because to me the most important part of the story is not superman, it's clark kent. why? because we are all clark kent. we all know what it's like to be boring and ordinary and which we
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could be something beyond ourselves. the most recent story i did was for action comics number 1000. this is a good secret, actually. it was the 1,000th issue of action comics and i did a story called "faster than a speeding bullet" to honor superman. the story opens up and it's superman flying full speed, he says i'm not going to make it. he knows he's not fast enough. he keeps going, he's flying, i'm not going to make it. you see what he sees, there's a gun being held to someone's head. this guy is holding a gun to a woman's head and he's pulled the trigger. superman is flying, the bullet is already starting to go through the gun. i know my top speed, i know the speed of the bullet, i know how far away i am, i'm not going to make it but i got to try. next page he's going even faster, going supersonic, hypersonic, still not going to make it. then he realizes that he was focused so much on the man he didn't see the woman.
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what the woman does is pushes her head against the gun and moves it just a tiny little fraction of space, but it's enough that it buys him half a second. he comes through the wall and says that's the second that i need, and he catches the bullet. but what no one knows, the great secret of that story, is the whole story takes place in half a second. the entire story. but at the end of the scene, he says to the woman who he saves and who saves herself, you know, you really saved yourself there. you should think about being a cop. she says yeah, my dad says that everyone's here for a reason, and superman says your dad's a really smart man. what no one knew is that the woman who superman saves in that story is actually my daughter. i had the amazing artist john cassaday who beautifully drew that issue, i gave him pictures of my daughter and she became the hero of the book. everyone else was seeing a superman story but i was writing something for my daughter to have forever. the great part of it, of course, was i got to say to my daughter,
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have superman say your father's a smart man which now she has to live with that forever. >> there is also an article about another book you wrote about a woman who saved his teacher's life, became a character in one of your books. >> yeah. let's talk about amy. my life was changed by teachers, many of them, actually. so she was an english teacher who told me i could write. the picture you're looking at is mrs. sherman. mrs. sherman was my history teacher in 11th grade, gave me my love of history. i owe her forever. when we were doing "decoded" i dedicated the history book to her. just to say thank you to my history teacher from high school. she wrote me a letter saying she was actually sick and that she needed a new kidney. she was going to die if she didn't have a new kidney. i went on my facebook page, she said can you put it out on facebook and twitter for me. i said listen, you changed my life, of course i can do that. we sent it out, said anyone out there who will give a kidney, my history teacher needs a kidney. one of the amazing people out
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there, a woman named amy wags, we call her, and she said and volunteered and said yes. a number of people said yes. incredible people said yes. she was the match, the actual match for mrs. sherman. i was there actually in the hospital right after that picture was taken. she came to florida, saved mrs. sherman's life and i said in that original post, if you give your kidney, if you give a body part to my history teacher i will make you a character in the next book. when you read "the hescape artist" you will see a woman named amy wags, named after that hero, the real amy who lives here in the washington, d.c. area. we owe her forever for that one. >> back to your phone calls. jackie is next, gilbert, arizona. you're on the air with brad meltzer. >> caller: brad has created a book regarding the first
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computer compiler, she was navy personnel. >> grace hopper. you're talking about grace hopper. i love grace hopper. ready for this? this is going to be great. ja jackie, you have no idea what you stumbled on to. grace hopper, this amazing navy hero, a woman who is credited with actually developing the term for a computer bug because she finds an actual moth, an actual bug in one of her computers. incredible woman. i love her so much that when you read "the inner circle" and "the fifth assassin" and "the president's shadow" there's a character named amazing grace, a computer genius in the book. everyone thinks she's this incredible hacker. she's this young person who sits and is the man in the chair who is tapping and clicking and you find out she's this elderly older woman named amazing grace, named after grace hopper. yes. one day i want to do an im book
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on grace hopper. i will tell you, the tv show, the cartoon show we are doing with pbs that comes out next year, we are trying to do grace hopper on the show. it will be the im book we were talking about. i forgot, i got cut off before but we are doing them as a tv show and grace hopper is on that list. you will see her soon. >> from clara on facebook, i truly enjoyed "lost history" and thank you for locating the ground zero flag. i know of your love of history but how do you choose which loss or missing historical items to pursue? >> let's talk about that. i went to the history channel and said i would love to use a tv show to find lost historical artifacts. i said we will use the show like a modern day wanted poster, hold the object up, say have you seen this, give a reward out. on the very first episode we said truly, this is the flag from 9/11 that the firefighters raised at ground zero. everyone knows the famous photograph. but the flag went missing, no one knew where it went. can you help us find it?
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we will give you $10,000 if you help us bring it back. what no one knew at the time is a man four days after the first episode of "lost history" aired, a man walked into a fire station in everett, washington, in washington state, said i saw the show "lost history" and this is the flag from 9/11, i need to return it. truthfully, we picked the items i really thought should come back and we wanted to come back. i just picked the ones i thought were important. >> what is this all about? >> kids are amazing. kids always come to our book signings. we will do a huge tour in january for "the first conspiracy." even when i'm doing not fiction or fiction, whatever i'm doing, kids come to the events with a list of demands. it's not a list of suggestions. kids don't make suggestions. it's a demand list of who the next i am book should be. they are determined to have "i am brad meltzer" which i will
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never write but kids now are so opinionated, they write them for me. how did you even get a copy of that? >> i have great producers. >> that's crazy. the thing is, i'm so easy to draw, right? that's me, it's perfect. but they go and they find out about my life and they write stori stories, when i grew up and graduated from the university of michigan and moved to boston, they totally figure me out, they draw me. chris is very scared right now because it looks just like me but they do, their kids are incredible and i love that they are determined to write my own book. >> chuck, good afternoon, from aurora, colorado. you're on the air. >> caller: thank you for c-span and i wanted to bring up the last speech of abraham lincoln which was made two days after
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appomattox where he was talking about restoring the union and wanted black men to have the right to vote, particularly black soldiers. there was a man in the crowd who was so enraged by this that he swore this would be the last speech that abraham lincoln ever made and three days later, that man shot abraham lincoln. i just wanted to bring this up as lincoln was a hero for voting rights, because i heard in the last election where some people said abraham lincoln did not care for black voting rights. he died for black voting rights. >> yeah. >> caller: he was a hero for that. >> listen, of course. you have it exactly right. when we did "i am abraham lincoln" the most important page in that book, we talk about him as a kid. we always start with the heroes when they're kids. the most important page of that book is the greatest speech he
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ever gave is of course at gettysburg and it says to kids so they hear it flat out, that speech, the gettysburg address, had 271 words. the most important words in there were these five. "all men are created equal." i don't care how much nonsense you see on twitter or facebook or anywhere else. we all know that to be true. it is why abraham lincoln to this day is the greatest president. i loved george washington. i love some modern ones, too. but to me, the moral character of that man is unimpeachable. >> did he preserve the country? >> i mean, that's the reason we're here. that's it. it was truly -- let's be clear. we are in a civil war right now. we just don't call it that, but we are. we are in a modern day civil war. we are just -- we don't do it with guns and shooting each other. we just do it on social media every day. we do it in our television, in our reporting. we are doing nothing else but trying to take each other down,
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whatever side you're on. and abraham lincoln was that person we could rally around and a great enough politician to finagle back and forth and work both sides to finally say you know what, we have more in common than we don't, and as long as you have leaders who think we have less in common, we have a problem. i truly believe that. i know abraham lincoln's best skill was, again, there were people who disagreed with him but that moral clarity that he had and to be able to remind us that we are better than our worst selves is vital. >> if you were to write a book on president trump, what would you write? >> you know, his story is not written but it's not going to be about a guy who spends so much time saying things that have to be fact-checked and have to be about him. my wife worked for donald trump's sister and i know the
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family very well. i have met him before. but you've got to look around today and say is the country, you know, i can go back to reagan. reagan's great campaign was are you better off four years ago than you are now. do you think the country is better off right now and that's a question we've got to ask ourselves. that's what we'll be asking in two years. you think where we are right now, you feel calmer than you did all those years ago? you feel like things are going better? feel like we're all headed the right direction? if you do, write your donald trump book. if you don't, history will judge. >> this is another facebook comment from amy cohanis, who says we're planning a big trip to d.c. next year, never been. what are your sort of secret must-do things that should be on our list? i'm trying to take tips from your books but i'm never sure exactly what part is total fiction. >> yeah, go, take the books and go. go to d.c. with the books. if you take, let's go through them one by one. if you take -- trying to
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remember which one it is. "the president's shadow" is about the lincoln memorial and shows you the hidden place below the memorial. it is real. read that chapter. you can go and actually see it from above ground. you can see where those air vents are. you will see the secret below that. if you read "the first counsel" you will see where the secret tunnels are below the white house and where they come out, and you can actually go see from outside where they kind of lead and when you go to the white house, the secret tunnels under the white house are real in there. if you read books about the capitol, "the zero game" shows you the secret tunnel below the u.s. capitol. when the capitol was built, there was no air conditioning so they had this big dome in the middle but the sides weren't there yet. when they put the sides that were there, the air conditioning used to come through these giant air vents. they used to circulate air underneath. when they built the sides, it wasn't like modern day where they figured out how to -- they just ran them all together. i remember going with the
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curator, we were crawling on our hands and knees, this is right after 9/11, crawling through those air vents in the tunnels in the labyrinth below the capitol, seeing some of these things. i remember at one point i was in a suit crawling on my hands and knees in the capitol days after 9/11 and he said stop. i said what's wrong? he said don't move. i said why? they had just put in a sniffer which is what smell a change in the air and he's like if this smells us, whether you are wearing cologne or whatever, it will set off an alarm in the capitol, they will evacuate the entire capitol days after 9/11. we will be on the front page of the paper. i was like but for my readers, i will risk my life. i will risk my life for you people. i will, every time. but obviously all those things you see in the book, i always change the security protocols, always. i change them on purpose because i want to write a book that's interesting but never at the expense of someone's safety. but those things you see, those tunnels you see, the secret
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entrances you see are real. i don't make them up. >> send us an e-mail at booktv@cspan.org. jeremy in westwood, new jersey with brad meltzer. good afternoon. you with us? jeff in texas. go ahead, please. >> caller: yes, thank you for taking my call. i have a question with regard to your daily writing habits. first of all, how long does it take for you to compose an entire book and second, what is your daily -- what are your daily writing habits like? question from an aspiring writer. thank you. >> jeff is like screw you, i want to know how i write my book. i appreciate it, jeff. you should go on my website, because there's a blog, a section that says how to get your book published. look at that. very quickly, i treat it like a
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job. i start and sit by about 9:00, 9:30. i try to write until i peter out and it's like squeezing a sponge. eventually you can only squeeze so much and it's dry. sometimes i write straight through to 2:30, take lunch at 2:30 because i want to go as far as i can without interruption. i eat a very late lunch, then come back and sometimes i can keep going and sometimes i'm done at 3:00 and sometimes i'm done at 6:00 and sometimes i'm done at 8:00 but i like every day sitting down. i don't work on weekends. i need to recharge. but that's what i do every single day, try and sit down and do that. in terms of how long it takes, the thrillers take me two years. they take me about six months of research and another year, year and a half of writing. the "i am" kids books will take me a couple weeks of writing, but so many months of research and reading books and reading biographies and editing. chris has his own incredible
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work he does to do all the beautiful art. in terms of non-fiction, like "the first conspiracy" that was almost a decade in the making because it started out from a decade ago, then slowly looking into it, and my one thing for a book is when you have an idea, there's lots of good ideas out there. you will find ideas everywhere. when you have an idea you can't shake, that's the one you have to work on. i knew after seven years it was still with me, the secret plot to kill george washington, i couldn't stop thinking about it, i've got to do this book. josh mentioned, i went to him first, can you help me with the research. at first he came out of a ten-year process so every book is its own kind of animal. >> what about "the millionaires"? where did that come from? >> that was my obsession with -- i heard this detail. i heard that we all know what the bank is, you take your card, you go to the bank and get your money out. someone said to me bill gates, at that point the richest man in
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the world, doesn't go to the same bank you go to, you and i go to. bill gates has his own private bank and these private banks cater to the wealthiest people in the world. and if you have $10 million, that's a nice start. if you have $50 million, they will gas up the private jet and come see you. they have, when you go in there, private chefs. they have their private gifts and there was this whole universe out there for millionaires. now i would probably call it the billionaires. i was like what do you mean, they have a world that we are not in? i want to know what's in that world. the need for that book, we started out by saying every book comes from a need, was my obsession with going what do the wealthy out there have that we don't have and how do we get there. my story, oliver and charlie, the heroes of that book, the plot of "the millionaires" was simple. they are two working class kids, they work in the back rooms of one of those private banks, they actually go -- they find out
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they have been betrayed and their boss has wrecked their careers on purpose and they find an account of a dead person who left $3 million and the guy's dead, the money's going to just sit here, it's a victimless crime. they take the $3 million as revenge to this boss who screwed them over. when they check their bank account, in a bank like that, no one misses $3 million. it's just not a big amount of money. but when they checked the account they moved it into, they didn't steal $3 million. their account is now $313 million and they're screwed. that's the opening chapters of that book. they are on the run. i will say, this -- i haven't told this in a long time, i don't know if i have ever told this. the opening chapter of that book is based on a really famous person. i went to a friend and i always say to people what's the scariest day you had at work. there's a guy who works at one of those banks and a guy who you all know, everybody listening to my voice knows who it is, it's a friday afternoon, 5:00, and the
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phone rings, and it's this famous guy who says, he's really mad because he wants to be on the forbes 400 list of wealthiest men in the world but his bank account that the money's supposed to be in has to be in a certain account and the money hasn't been transferred and he's screaming at my buddy, true story, and he's like you better get my money in there, you better do this, and my friend hangs up the phone, he calls his boss. the boss isn't reachable. pre-cell phone. he's in the hamptons. he's got to get these millions of dollars transferred. he panics, reaches and calls the guy and figures it out, he transfers the money and he gets it all done right before 5:00. then a buddy says to him are you sure that was really the famous guy on the phone? and my friend has a heart attack. he realizes he doesn't know who he just transferred it to, if it was really him. thankfully, it really was him. the opening scene of "the million narsa
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millionaires" is the same thing happens. >> quick followup. how did $3 million become $300 million? >> that's the book. that's the question. basically, they are suckered. someone clearly put that money in there. money was hiding in this account that they don't know. that's the mystery of the book. >> laura, welcome to the conversation from erie, pennsylvania. >> caller: hi, steve. thank you for c-span. a very interesting story with all the plots with the book. i'm especially interested in the one where your teacher was actually saved by a donor. i just watched your talk on change history, write your story. your story is simple. we started a pro-life charity called save unborn life here in erie. we started just with one person. the person was thinking about an abortion and she said i can't afford this child. so we came out and the director said gosh, i wish we could do something. i said why don't we offer her
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some money. we saved over 100 unborn babies so far through our charity and we wanted to know from you how to get more donors, how to get our story out there. >> thank you, laura. >> let's talk about that. here's the thing. you are proving that is how history works, right? i don't care how much money you make, i don't care where you went to school or what your title is. i believe in regular people and their ability to effect change in this world. that's my core belief. ordinary people change the world. people like yourself who have a passion, who have a cause, who want to help people do something, create opportunity for someone else, whatever it might be, that's how the world is always changed. one person who is committed to an ideal and wants to fight for that ideal. to me, as you saw in the talk, got to tell your story. how do you get more people, more interest, more attention? tell your story. history is not a bunch of dates and facts you memorize. history is a selection process.
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it chooses every single one of us every single day. the only question is, do you hear the call. you heard in erie, pennsylvania, she heard the call. there are people out there, i guarantee, who are mad because she's like pro-life, you should be pro-choice. you know what? whatever your cause is, we all have them, fight for your cause. tell your story. as long as it's going to help people and make a good result, that's a good thing. to me, i love that that's how history works. i love that it's not just the wealthy and connected, and especially today, it is the power of regular people. it will always be at the core of every book i write, every non-fiction book i write, certainly every "i am" kids book i write. it's at the core of "the first conspiracy" you see george washington's character. this man in this moment. "the escape artist" which is the book she referred to, i'm so glad you're reading that, that is changed by these people who
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work on the lines, especially the soldiers every day giving their lives. you saw the ones who just came back, the three that just came back from dover and the day before, the other one that came throu through, incredibly horrifying but incredible picture of the work they do at dover. the world changes every single day. that's how it should be and how it will always be. to me that's how it's always going to be. >> if there was a brad meltzer trivia jeopardy question, what one thing -- >> there was one. someone sent me a picture of -- it was for "the escape artist" that said this brad meltzer book had harry houdini and it was "the escape artist." that was a good one. i think the better one, oh, gosh -- >> about you personally. >> yeah. again, my brain is now going like what's the good answer but
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i will give you the honest answer. my honest answer is it just goes to my parents. it always goes to my parents for me. my parents, my kids. that's what my brain is working on. i don't have a sharp amazing intellectual answer. it's like who do i write for? for my wife, for my kids, i write in honor of my parents, who passed away. that's the core of who i am. if you understand them, you will understand me. it's why i do what i do. i have non-fiction books now because i have kids. when i got married, i wrote a book about a married guy and i only sit here today because my parents, when i went to michigan, should have never sent me there. they had no money to do it. they should have sent me to the state school and said go there, it will cost much less. and my dad looked at me and said i'm going to get you there. he had no business doing that. no business at all. but he would kill himself for me and my sister. so the trivia question to me is,
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that's the core of it, something that goes back to them. >> who keeps you humble? your wife? >> so here's my -- you know, who keeps me humble. certainly my wife does. that's for sure. my wife reads every book. she's the first editor. the things she always takes out, she takes out all the jokes. understand i'm a very funny person. i know that because i've just said that to you. and i know i'm very funny in everything i write and she's always reading and going you're not that funny, this isn't that funny, this is super not funny. i'm like i am so funny. you have no idea how funny i am right now. so that is humble. no one keeps me more humble than my children. no one. my daughter says to me, and my son said i hate to read. i'm like you do know what i do for a living. you do know what pays to feed you. and in fact, my son recently
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came home from school, my youngest, and we helped find the 9/11 flag with our tv show and on 9/11, this past 9/11, my son came home from school and he had to write an -- had to read an article and respond to it. the article was about finding the 9/11 flag. he said dad, look, they didn't even mention you in the article, he was so proud that i wasn't mentioned. they mentioned the tv show found it, not you. i was like son, you are going to crush this homework assignment. you will rule homework right now. it got picked up by yahoo! because i wound up tweeting about it. the next day at 6:00 in the morning, the teacher called me up, like i'm so sorry, i didn't know it was you, i didn't know you helped find the flag. it was the best humbling moment i could ever ask for. >> very quickly, there's a picture of the "jeopardy" question. >> found it already. there it is. wow, you even have that. >> let's get back to phone calls. stanley in chicago, good afternoon, with brad meltzer.
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>> caller: hey, brad. i read your "escape artist." kudos to you. my question involves the dover, delaware [ inaudible ]. in my previous life i was an embalmer. but my question is the total respect you put in for the military dead. my question is, i didn't understand, do they embalm civilians? three military dead, what do they do with the rest of their time? are they just local contracted embalmers? do they cremate on scene or do they let the local morticians do the cremations? your detail is so amazing, i loved it, but could you just tell a little -- >> yeah, let's talk about it. thank you. let me also say, e-mail me through my website because i'm always looking for people who worked as embalmers for the next book. e-mail me, tell me you were the guy who called in.
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i want to ask you a question. i always have questions. >> why? >> research. this guy has embalmed many bodies and he's got a story. i guarantee you. he has a story, the craziest story he ever had. that will be my next book. >> he can play a role in your next book? >> if you're stanley, but to answer his question, to answer your question, stan, so the embalmers who are there are all civilians. they are not military people. sadly, there's a lot of work to go around there. you know, we see, i was just talking to one of the ones, one of my dearest friends who i met while i was researching "the escape artist" no is no longer at dover. he said you see these bodies, they will show a picture with one body coming off. you show pictures when there's three bodies coming off. we forget at the height of the war, there were 30 bodies coming home, 50 bodies coming home every day. and there was just so much work to go around.
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now, in terms of civilian deaths, the only time you will see civilian deaths worked on there is if there's some kind of connection through the case or it's important. all the victims from the 9/11 flight on the pentagon all went there. the astronauts from the "challenger" explosion went to dover. so you will see certain cases when there's a mass fatality, you will see civilians go in there. you will also see sometimes john glenn went in there because he was just kind of a man, obviously a huge politician, very famous person, they wanted to make sure his body was done right, so sometimes you will see people like that go through there, too. it really runs the gamut. but if there was just a regular civilian in there, they will go to someone local in dover. what i love is the mortician just called in, he basically asked about the business side, like how are they getting paid. only the real mortician knows that. he's got an entire experience at that job that's going to inform a character of mine, i promise you that. >> to melvin in kansas city, missouri. go ahead, please.
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>> caller: thank you, c-span. i appreciate what you all do. i'm really fascinated on hearing your story, brad's story. i'm not that familiar. now, my question is, i know you said the children are picking kind of the book but would he consider for the "i am" books, i am a child advocate, marion wright edelman. >> marion wright edelman hosted my very first book party. when i went in and said i wanted to work on the "i am" children's books they said we have amelia earhart and abraham lincoln, how many do you want to do, two or three? i said no, a hundred. my goal is eventually to do a hundred. i want to do an entire library of heroes.
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and she is certainly someone who deserves to be on there. she does incredible advocacy work. i will tell you this. on the day i was born, my father went to the liquor store and bought a bottle of champagne. he said i'm going to open up this bottle of champagne when my son brad gets married. i remember we moved to -- from florida -- we moved to florida from new york. he kept -- the things you give to the movers, your stuff, the things you take in the car with you, that's your life. i remember when we drove down from new york down to florida, it was my mom and dad in the front seat, my sister and i in the back seat. behind the two headrests were two bottles of champagne that used to roll back and forth in the florida sun. my parents didn't know anything about taking care of champagne but we were their lives. we were what they cared about. when my son was born, my first son was born, i said i don't care about champagne. i want to write a book that's
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going to teach him how to be a good man, that's going to give him rules to live by to be a good person, how to be kind, how to be generous. i figured one day i present him with this book, he would say to me thank you, father, you are indeed the greatest father of all time. i had this parade planned, it was going to be spectacular. but the book was garbage. but a friend of mine told me this amazing story about the wright brothers. he said every time the wright brothers would fly their plane they would bring enough extra materials for multiple crashes which means every time they went out they knew they would fail. they would crash and rebuild, crash and rebuild and that's why they took off. i love that story. i wanted my sons to hear that story, i wanted my daughter to hear that story. if you dream big and work hard and have a good side order of stubbornness, you can do anything in this world. i said that's the book i want to write. not a book of rules, but a book of heroes. i wrote that for my son and i had a daughter and wrote that
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for her daughter. those books are filled with 100 heroes. one-page stories of inspiration. starts with the wright brothers, the story i just told you. that's what really started me out in doing that. and back to that question about marion wright edelman, i put all these people in there who aren't just famous, but people you never heard of. my english teacher from ninth grade who changed my life, sheila spicer, who changed my life by saying you can write. i thought well, everyone can write. she said no, no, no. you know what you're doing. she tried putting me in the honors class. i had some sort of conflict. she said you're going to sit in the corner the entire year, ignore everything i do on the blackboard, ignore every homework assignment i give, do the honors work instead. she said you will thank me later. a decade later when my first book was published i went into her classroom, knocked on the door. she said can i help you? i said my name is brad meltzer, i wrote this book and it's for you.
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and she starts crying. i said why are you crying? she said i was going to retire this year because i didn't think i was having an impact anymore. i said are you kidding me? you have 30 students, we have one teacher. she had such an impact on me. i put her in "heroes" for my daughter. but those people that i selected are all these incredible people through history and that was kind of the first place. and the point of it was, marion wright edelman was on that list. just one of those great people that again, is right here and we can see in recent times. >> one quick followup, then we will take a break. the trip from brooklyn to florida, was that the trip you stopped in washington for a nanosecond? >> how do you know that one? oh, my god. okay. some of the things i will give you. have i ever -- i honestly -- i clearly told the public and my mind is trying to figure out where you saw that. i just told the story to my sister, she didn't even know it. we didn't have any money for hotels when we drove. we had to make it quick. we were coming down, it was a --
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we stayed in one hotel, just down. we couldn't stop in d.c. so what we did when we drove through washington, d.c., i was 13 years old, i had a kodak disc camera and my parents, knowing i wanted to see these things, i had never seen them before, would pull up to the monument or the white house or lincoln memorial and i guess they couldn't afford parking, and they would stop the car and i would get out of the car. i remember i ran up the lincoln memorial steps, took a picture with the kodak disc, ran down, got in the car, and then we would go to the white house. i ran out, went up to the gate, put the camera through the gate, took a picture. did the same thing at these monuments we were passing by, whatever we saw. that was my first moment in washington. it was truly a five-second tour. but it changed my life. needless to say, i made my way back. good for you on finding that story. i feel like you're eavesdropping on my calls. >> we teased this earlier.
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2016, brad meltzer with barbara bush. lucille ball. explain what they're about to see. >> this is how much barbara bush loved literacy. we did a book called "i am lucille ball" and i wanted my daughter to have this book. we used to watch "lucy" together. we did story times where i would read the book with someone and we would do something fun and funny. i said what if i dress up like lucille ball. here's the best part of the back story you've got to know. mrs. bush's office said that's great, let's do it, we are raising money for literacy, so they put us -- we were going back to the president's office. we would do it there. i figured she was briefed and we were in the car talking. she said what are we doing in the office anyway? i thought oh, my god, they didn't tell her. now it falls to me. i'm like well, mrs. bush, i'm not even going to tell you. but i told her this.
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this is what she basically said yes to, us recreating this scene and eating about 1,000 chocolates. >> midway through our three-hour conversation on c-span 2's book tv in depth. this is the final of the 12-part series in which we featured fiction authors. our guest this month, brad meltzer. we will come back with more of your calls, comments and e-mail questions and twitter comments in about six minutes. brad meltzer with barbara bush. >> we are going to read a very special book, my favorite author she's reading today. mrs. bush, why don't you tell us who you're reading? >> we are going to read "i am lucille ball" by brad meltzer, illustrated by christopher yoropolis. >> he's the artist. we don't really care that much about him. >> do we want the writer? >> yes. we want the writer. here we go. by the way, i want you to know,
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we are going to do the chocolate conveyor belt scene. you are going to do that with me, right? >> no. i am lucille ball. when i was a little girl, my mother tried to dress me in ribbons and bows but i was different from other girls. my idea of fun was horsing around with my dad. he used to throw me up to the ceiling, always catching me and making me laugh. put her down, right now. that's not a game for a proper girl. i don't think this one's a proper girl. when i was 3 years old, the local grocer used to let me put on a show at his store. my favorite was this frog routine. >> we are lucy and ethel, me and you right now, don't you think? >> very much. >> butch and sundance. >> yeah. >> skipper and gilligan? forrest gump and jenny. >> perfect.
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by the time i was 12, i realized there was real power in making people laugh. the principal of my school, a man named bernard drake, realized it, too. he was very first person to label my wild and fun behavior as talent? >> talent. >> when i was 17, my mom sent me to a fancy acting school in new york city. it didn't go as i had planned. of the 70 students accepted in the school, they narrowed it down to 12. i didn't make it. i failed. from there i tried being a dancer, but nothing much changed. i never let it stop me. at one point i was so poor, i was down to my last four cents. that's it, four pennies. to eat i waited for a customer to leave a restaurant, then i would grab the leftover food before it got thrown away.
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i went to see -- i went to so many trials, i even wore out my shoes but no matter how hard i tried, the message never seemed to change. eventually, i did find work and then with a bit of luck, i finally got my first big break in the movies. i was 21 years old and selected to be one of the girls in the back row at the movie "roman scandals." as the director came to inspect us all, i grabbed some red crepe paper, tore it into shreds, licked it, and -- >> lucy was born. >> lucy was born. >> now, here's the key part. pay attention to this part. this is the important part. >> in time, that confidence led to the one role that changed my life. i had left the movies and was working in radio. then cbs had a brand new idea for a tv show.
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to prove them wrong, my husband desi and i took our show on the road. we turned it into a vaudeville act. vaudeville was an old kind of show that had lots of funny skits. it became such a big hit, cbs decided it was ready for tv. we asked for one thing, to film the show in front of a live audience. hearing that audience, people at home would really feel the laughter. >> laughter! >> the tv network was worried about the cost to film. they said it would be too expensive. so we made a deal. they could pay us less money, but the show would belong to us. >> this is the part. ready, mrs. bush, all the chocolate with me. together, let's do it. we will be like donald trump. probably not the best example, i admit. >> every episode, lucy and rick along with their best friends,
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ethel and fred, would get into a crazy adventure. every day, america turned to see what lucy was up to. they wanted to see what new trouble i would get into. and they wanted to see who else would show up. we had famous guest stars like harpo marx and superman. that's right, superman. >> i love superman. he's my favorite. >> your mouth is full. >> of chocolate. >> between 1952 and 1953, the tv bosses said no one would be interested. two out of three households with tv sets were watching "i love lucy" on monday night. what was the secret of the show's success? it was the thing i learned all those years ago. you could always find a laugh in what everyone else is taking so seriously. >> this is so much chocolate in my mouth, you have no idea. >> yes, i do. it's gross. today, people call me the
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greatest comedian of my time, and one of the most beloved entertainers ever. but i was also the first woman to run a major hollywood studio. remember what i said when the tv show belonged to us? our studio, desilu used the money to produce other shows. "star trek" and "mission impossible." >> here's my favorite part. watch this. i love this writing. >> in life, people put me down because i was different from everyone else. they didn't like the way i looked. >> i see nothing in what you're talking about. >> or the way i talked or the way i was always clowning around. this isn't a joke. don't let other people change you. there's no such thing as a proper girl or boy. be true to whoever you are. >> so as we look at that, first of all, what was barbara bush's reaction after you completed that? >> come on. did you see that? it's total madness.
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i'm eating a thousand chocolates in the president of the united states' office. barbara bush, it was all done in one take. if you really listen closely, put in barbara bush, brad meltzer, lucy on the internet, you can see the highlight reel of it, and it is -- the staff is hysterically laughing in the background. they said it's the funniest thing they have ever seen her do and it's all her. she's the perfect straight man for the job. she is just crushing it. when i say it's going to be like hillary and donald trump, like tina and -- she just looks at me like dumb fool. she knows the comedy's there. she knew it was a good laugh. i think what you're really seeing in between the pixels is our trust. she knew i would never do anything that would not be in the best respect and that wouldn't be fun for literacy but what i really think you see there is her ability to not take herself seriously and to have a good time.
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>> that scene from nearly 70 years ago, yet we still remember it today. >> it's the number one thing people -- when we were doing the "i am lucille ball" book there was a moment where they said we don't know if we can get the chocolate conveyor belt scene because that doesn't come from the lucille ball estate, it comes from cbs. i was like well, if you don't have that, we don't have the book because that's what people know and we want kids to see it. so when our amazing artist was redoing that, we knew kids had to laugh. when they see that scene in the book, i love that there are kids now across the country who for halloween dress up as lucille ball thanks to our book and are watching lucy again thanks to our book and writing me letters and saying i just watched the conveyor belt scene, i love that we brought that back to them. when you watched them, lucille ball is such a star. everyone else is doing nothing but working around her. it's this incredible, an incredible power she has.
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people don't realize in terms of impact, it's not about fame for us. that's not why we do the books. lucy was rejected over and over, was so poor she would eat off other people's plates. she was told in the dance theater she will never make it as a dancer, go back to your hometown. you are not pretty enough, not dainty enough, not light on your feet enough. lucy was like watch this. there was nothing that inspires me more than someone saying no to me. >> now her hometown, jamestown, new york has the comedy hall of fame and museum. >> obviously we loved working with them with the book. i loved the power of lucille ball. we get to put it out for the next generation. >> this is from rob, who says the most impactful book you have ever read and why. what is it? >> yeah. i think -- listen, i think we talked about murder at the vicarage, we talked about agatha christie. i guess this is where i'm supposed to say "to kill a
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mockingbird" or some wise answer but i honestly think for me it was justice league of america 150. it was the first comic book i ever read. in the comic book, the justice league gets trapped in these prisons and they're like giant keyholes. superman is in his prison but it's with kryptonite and he can't get out, and green lantern's is coated with yellow so he can't get out, and flash is coated with something so he can't vibrate out. you're like i'm 9 years old, and i'm like oh, my god, how are they going -- will they be trapped there forever? they could all die. i'm a kid so i don't know. but here's the thing that happens in the book. the way they get out, this character, like plastic man, he can stretch his body, he can't get out of his prison but he can, what they can do is, and
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flash can vibrate through the prison but can't leave. so elongated man makes himself into a giant rubber band, like a treadmill, and the flash together, they move him over and they get him in there and he can run in his own prison, then they figure out like by doing that, they can work together is the point of the story. by working together, you can actually get out. that metaphor has served me well for 40 something years. that idea that even though we are all ordinary people and have ha our own dreams and things we care about, but there's nothing like the power of when you do it all together. i think in many of my books, you see that. you see that kind of, that person who is struggling with that issue, especially in the thrillers, and i will say it this way. at the signing for "the escape artist" in miami, i have been doing signings in miami for 20
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years, a woman stands up and says i read your books, i have read all your thrillers, and she said i feel like every book you write is like this young guy and he wants to be a part of some bigger thing, could be the white house, could be a private bank, could be this, something big. by the end of the book he realizes that thing wasn't what he thought it was and maybe it wasn't as great as it was. he's struggling with that, trying to figure out who he is. i looked at her and i didn't know it either, but i said to her right there, you are absolutely right, that's every single one of my books except for this one. "the escape artist" was different because instead of writing the book as a kid which is how havei have always been writing, a kid who wants to do it all together, team up with your friends and figure it out, "the escape artist" was different because it was written from the point of view of a father. here's this guy who works with these soldiers who is in this hole surrounded by death every day and worried about this girl who comes on to this table who
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is supposedly dead and is actually not, she's alive, she's on the run, she's escaped. but that love that he feels for his own daughter and for this woman who is in danger, that's my love for my kids. that's my love for my wife. that's my love for where i am now. i switched that point of view and i think that justice league started me there and somewhere along the way i kind of found my own story. >> quick question. is it difficult or easy to come up with some of the names, the characters? >> names are hard. no, there's an alchemy in names. when you name something you give it a power. if you just give it a boring name and you just say this is going to be ira, he's going to be ira, finding zig, finding nola, even finding ben addison, named after my grandfather who used to tell me batman stories when i was little. today i love batman so much. you give a power to it. a good name is hard. i have a whole list of the best
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names. >> so nora hartson and michael garrick. >> there's a code in his name. he's named after jay garrett, the golden age flash who was always running. nora, i wanted a name that was a throwback, so nora became that name. nola, i picked for "the escape artist" because that was the perfect name because she was actually named after new orleans, the most dangerous city in the whole world as far as i'm concerned in terms of breaking rules. zig was named in honor of an actual person who used to work at dover but it was the perfect name. in the book, the boat pady partd in the rose garden. this is a crazy story. i knew i wanted to start the book with a body part, basically what they find is, i don't want to ruin the scene, but basically
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they find a hand in the rose garden buried in the dirt. the first lady is digging, planting, she's a gardiner. when i asked mrs. bush about it, all these books, you will see the bushes and president clinton was very kind to me many years ago also. but i asked them what do you miss, what's the thing when you are actually in the white house and you are the president and first lady, what do you miss. they were like just that moment to yourself. everybody's always all over you. the idea of this first lady who was just gardening, she's answering questions all day long, surrounded by staff all day long but here, in the middle of the night, she can just plant her things and have this garden. this is before michelle obama nou announced her garden, and just have a moment. as she's digging through the dirt, that smell of the soil, just inspires her, makes her feel like you know what, i'm back again, not in the white house, i'm home, i'm younger, have these moments to myself. and she finds an arm buried in the rose garden, severed arm in the rose garden.
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screams, obviously, like oh, my god, how did it get there past security, how did it happen. i got chapter one. the question is how to get chapter two. i went to the secret service and said what would you do? you found a body, would you put it on the news, hunt it down, do the dna? they said first thing i would do is i would paint the white house. i said what are you talking about? what does that mean? they said here's the thing. if i go and scream it to everyone, i'm going to tell everyone what i've got, then i have ruined the whole crime scene. he said but if i say i want to do home improvement in the white house, some rooms need painting, we should actually get the first family to move across the street. they will live in blair house for a little bit. now we have the first family away. all the press is away from the white house. i can do the full investigation and no one will know what i'm up to. i can do that full thing and no one realizes what's going on. i said why does that sound like it might have happened. he said think of it this way,
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brad. bill clinton did home improvements in the music room. george w. bush did improvements. barack obama did improvements. you will not believe the investigations that have happened here in the name of home improvements. that's where the rest of the book came from. going to the secret service and having them help me figure it out. >> to dave, oaklyn, new jersey, good afternoon. >> caller: good afternoon, mr. scully and mr. meltzer. mr. meltzer, i believe cut through the grand illusions to the point where your intelligence will take you certain places to find out what was really happening. i'm concerned with your thinking to apply your kinesthetic thinking to, the 9/11 scene. do you believe that some people say that it was an inside operation and that it was controlled demolition and also at the pentagon, many of the government kinesthetic thinkers
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and observers say there was a missile turbine inside the pentagon and not jet turbines. >> listen, i appreciate the question and welcome to my life, because when you do a show called "decoded" and you should see this, when anyone has a crazy story, no one gets crazier e-mail than me. if you have a crazy story to tell, there's two people to send it to. send it to jesse ventura or me. the family of abraham lincoln's killer, john wilks booth, famously killed lincoln, 12 days later was shot himself. there's a lawyer, friend of mine, called me up and said hey, listen, i got the family, i represent john wilks booth's family and they have a story to tell. they say he actually didn't die 12 days later. even though every history book says it. they say he went on the run. they said he escaped, took on a new name. they have the evidence, would you like to speak with them? yes, i want to hear that. i have plenty of people who will ask me about 9/11, about what
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happened in the pentagon, ask about the buildings going down but here's what i know. there's more misinformation on 9/11 than just about any modern thing i can find in history. if you put 9/11 and pentagon into youtube, you can't even find the actual footage from that day, it is so filled with conspiracy theories and other crazy stories. i love a good crazy story. i think you are right, i do want to cut through all that and find it. but i will also tell you this. for anyone who says it's fake or nonsense or anything else, my friend michelle hidenburger died in 9/11, a flight attendant on the pentagon flight. anyone who tells me that's nonsense or didn't happen, my friend has been missing for over 15 years now. i know it happened that day. her husband is a pilot and worked with the pilots that day. now, do i think there's a lot more throughout that we don't know, do i think it's interesting you watched all these people from saudi arabia leave our country right before, the day before that happened,
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like that's an interesting story to me. it is a story that's playing out currently today as we look at, you know, i always ask one question when it comes to real world mysteries. that is who benefits. ask yourself that question, you will always find an answer. who benefits from this. we think our government lies, they are full of liars, but the government doesn't lie. the government is made up of us. people lie. they tend to lie not for big giant reasons or to take over the world or to stroke their cat and get $1 million coming to them. they lie for very simple reasons, for money, for power, for sex, for embarrassment, things they want to cover up, things they're ashamed of. and the government has a really hard time keeping it secret, as we all know. do i think there's more out there that's interesting about what people knew and when they knew it, absolutely. do i think that this is, you know, all crazy, kooky -- there are crazy stories out there. i don't, but again, it's something that i would always love to look at, always love to
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hear more. >> quick followup because you mentioned saudi arabia. could you come up with a story like jamal khashoggi and the crown prince? >> the crazy part was i just got invited to go to saudi arabia right before it happened. i was invited to go to a conference. i was like why am i invited to this. then all of this happened. i ask myself to this moment why was i invited there. why would anyone over there want me to come there. >> why were you invited? >> for a book festival. one of the big crown princes wanted to meet me. that's what they said. sometimes a book festival is a book festival. in my imagination, it could be anything. the khashoggi story, if i made that up and i saw the reaction, and i said we just watched an american citizen be killed and now we have a president who doesn't want to do anything about that, there's a reason that for the first time republicans and democrats are aligned on something. this is the first time where donald trump has seen oh, my gosh, democrats and republicans
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agree on one thing, that you've got to stand up for your own citizens, for your own people. if i bring a story like that to my editor, my editor says no one will believe it. so sometimes history, you don't know it's playing out and sometimes you absolutely know it's playing out. this one's playing out. >> in 2015, you were quoted saying if i created a character like donald trump in one of my thrillers, my editor would throw it back at me and say no one will believe it. >> a reality star who is going to become the president? telling me -- if i said that to my editor she would be like bring it back. the funny part is, one thing i know about writing is you can't fight against reality. you can't beat it. it will always beat you. i remember when i was -- when i was doing -- what was the book. "the first counsel." i had all my meetings lined up. it was great, first white house
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book i'm ever doing. and the week that i'm about to go into the white house, this little scandal named monica lewinski broke and no one would talk to me. you couldn't have a reporter come into your office, even though i'm a novelist. no one could talk to anyone. everything was shut down. the "washington post" did this huge story that said basically only a fool would be writing about the white house right now. what's going on in the white house in the midst of lewinski is so crazy that you can't compete with it. it's too nuts. no one should be writing -- only a fool would be starting a white house thriller today. i was like oh, my gosh, i'm that fool. i'm the fool. but i was like, i was obsessed with the white house. i wanted to know what goes on there, where's the secret tunnels, the passages, how does the president get out. they eventually let me in and they let me in because i am the fiction writer. i'm the guy who goes in because i'm not going to quote you. i'm not going to say you did something bad.
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while lewinski was at its hayday, you can find footage of me going into the white house. i'm one of the only people, i had the head person of the investigation in the white house sit and talk to me. every reporter in the whole country wanted to be there but i was there because i wasn't going in to talk about that. i was going what's it like when the whole world is staring at a controversy like this and i had the best seat in the whole house. here's the best part. it's now two years past and my book is coming out, i think in a month or two, and this tiny little tv show debuts for the first time on the air called "the west wing" and everybody at that moment in time becomes interested in the white house again. a week or two or a month later, month or two later, my book comes out. it was the biggest book i had ever done at that point. suddenly the only dummies who had anything to do with the white house was "the west wing" and me and the book took off, just because the interest was there. it taught me right there never
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try and fight reality. do what you love and pray for the best. "the escape artist" i started three years ago. if i was writing a book right now about the white house, i would be like oh, my gosh, i can't compete with the craziness every day that is going on in the white house right now, that the world right now is so focused on this president who every day, whether you love him or hate him, has more action going on than any president in history. i mean, the speed of the scandal, the speed of the reporting, we are on hyper time right now. remember when you used to watch, you can go times ten, times 12, you would be like 128? we're watching 128 every day. that's where we are. that's where our twitter feeds are these days. if i were writing about the white house right now, i would be like i can't compete with that. it's too much. i don't know that. "the escape artist" i happened to pick dover air force base and
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our fallen heroes, because it was interesting. i had no idea donald trump was going to be elected. i got lucky just like when i did the first counsel. >> send us your questions to book tv@cspan.org. i would love to listen to media sources to provide alternatives aside from c-span and pbs. there are few alternative sources. your recommendations? >> really good question. let's think real quick. i firmly believe in picking opposite yourself. if you are one of those people who watches fox news every day, go to msnbc. follow them on twitter, on facebook. if you're on msnbc all the time, go to fox news and follow them. i think more interestingly, though, pick people, pick smart people who are out there. even if they're the opposite of your kind of thinking. whether you're picking george will or -- i mean, there are incredibly smart people. whether it's jake tapper or chuck todd that you want to follow, who have really
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interesting feeds. or if you want to follow on the conservative side, brian kilmeade or anyone else, follow them. check them out. see what they're interested in. because the one thing i know is when you look through someone else's eyes, you really, in your heart, open your heart, open your mind, and you look through someone else's eyes, you're not going to agree with them. george bush, when president bush passed away, the things, the number one thing when i posted something on facebook that people wrote is i didn't agree with the man on all of his politics but i respected, that's how the sentence would start over and over and over. we at least need to get back to that. you may not agree but try and find some semblance of common ground. now, admittedly, when the president of the united states is taking harder cracks at, you know, at things that are happening here rather than putin, rather than saudi arabia, rather than all these things that actually, china and things that are coming against us, it makes it hard for people, but try to find that semblance of let me understand where they are
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coming from, because i promise you it will make you calmer. >> back to your phone calls. linda from tennessee, good afternoon. >> caller: hello. i have a big question. my question for you, you are so entertaining in your work, you are so great -- >> thank you. i really appreciate it. >> caller: you're welcome. i am an underground, never done it, but i have hundreds of stories and i start out writing all the time but i never finish, and i just, i want to be a writer. i have no idea. i did take a little creative writing class after i graduated from college and the teacher just shot me down. >> oh, no. no. we can't have that. no. this is a very important question. this is a big question. i will tell you one thing. you must keep writing. you must keep writing. i had 24 people who told me to give it up, 24 rejection letters
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on my first book. people said brad, you're terrible at it, you can never do it. i don't look back on that experience 20 years later and say well, i was right and they were wrong and ha-ha on them. that's a very pigheaded way to look at it. when i look back on it, it's to realize that we know so often in life all it takes is one person to change your life. right? think of that person who gave you your first real job, the person who told you were good at something for the first time. we have one person sometimes changes your life. your job is to find that person. go tell your story, put it down on paper. i know you said you started, which means you're like i couldn't finish. finish. finish. it's almost like -- it's interesting, they say 99% of people who start a book never finish it, and 99% of people who finish a book never get it published. those numbers are obviously a little ridiculous, but the point of it is right, which is everyone says they want to be a writer but they can't finish their book. well, then you're not writing. to be a writer, is just to
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write, just do it. like i said before, write a page every day. >> you included some criticism of your book, the negative reviews. we will show a portion in just a moment. what was that all about? >> yeah. it was very important to me, i think it was about the 15-year and versusary of me doing this. i had just gotten all these bad reviews. you know, i had gotten beautiful reviews, incredible reviews saying i'm the greatest thing to ever happen, fresh new breath of legal thrillers, the next coming of whatever, fill in. that's not right. it's just as easily not right to say he's the worst thing ever. but they hurt. they hurt. remember i said in the beginning i would be like everything is great? i got a review, "usa today" gave me a review and the title, it was "the first counsel" one of the best reviewed books i ever had. but "usa today" wrote a head line that said i opened up the paper, i was so excited, we had this great big launch party and they said you are going to be reviewed in "usa today" tomorrow. i got to the airport, at a mcdonald's, i was buying
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pancakes and i opened up the paper, they used to sell "usa today" at mcdonald's. i was so excited to see what they wrote about my amazing book and it said make first your last. it was like a public beating. like every bad review is like your mother said it to you. i remember calling my mom telling her i'm mad and upset and so sad, and i remember my mom said to me oh, don't worry, no one reads that paper anyway. i'm like mom, it's the most read paper in the whole country. i finally realized that i can't be scared of these things. you have to embrace them rather than ignore them. every single one i read and i don't want to say they're bad. there is some real good truth in there. if you read them you will become a better writer. they're not oh, that's so stupid if it's a bad review. no, it's not. you better learn from it or you're not going to get better. i read those reviews but i'm like i can't let them have power over me. i collected all the reviews. i took my kids and the little league team i used to coach, i went to the old age home where
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my grandmother used to work and i did this which is the best way to show it. >> let's watch a portion of it. >> disappointment. >> biggest [ inaudible ] book? >> d-plus. >> d-plus. >> well, it sounds okay. >> d-plus? >> no, b-plus. >> i know, but i got a d-plus. >> oh. >> first of all, that's my grandmother. may she rest in peace. again, no script. i said but i got a d-plus. she said b-plus isn't bad. i'm like i got a d-plus. she's like oh, then you've got to work harder. i put that out. everyone hates brad meltzer. put it in the internet and find that. for the writers out there,
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especially my last caller, i know famous writers, many of whom you've had on here who have e-mailed me privately and said thank you for that video. i realized when i made it, i wish i was smart enough to know this. i didn't. but when i did that, and embraced all the awfulness, it freed me from it. make no mistake, every bad review still hurts. not like i'm impervious. it's still my kryptonite. it made me realize the flaw in every critic is that they're human. that's why it's an imperfect system and that's okay, too. i do believe that all the reviews that say you're the best doesn't mean you're the best and the ones that say you're the worst doesn't mean the worst. your job is to look for the truth. to the caller, keep writing your story every day, write a page. you'll have a book in a year, i promise. >> james from fort washington, maryland, go ahead, please. >> caller: yes, how you doing? good afternoon. i was given one of your books, i
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cannot remember the name of it, in 2009 when i was in the hospital. and the end part was about something in the basement somewhere in western d.c., and after the end, you got some muck and stuff down there. but at any rate, let me say this. i have followed you and i see you quite often. i think what i would like for you to do if you can, can you write a story called [ inaudible ] and the reason i say that, is all of the k street crowd and think tanks, they come on and they come on sometimes with good stuff but who asked them to come on, you know. the good thing about c-span is
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that it's right next to fox. so they can keep them coming. when i say the studio, it it was right there. >> you wanted me to find out who benefits, right? that's the whole thing. listen, the great thing about c-span, let me tell you what the other great thing is, not that it's next to fox or near cnn or anything like that. but it's the fact that it lets you have access to information and there is nothing more powerful than that. but you are asking the right questions. you do want to know who benefits, you do want to know the why. you answer that question, you will find a lot more interesting mysteries. >> another e-mail from a viewer saying would you consider an "i am" book, a group of people such as what became of the war on terror, the hero passengers and crew of flight 93, united airlines. >> let's talk about flight 93. of course i would. i love them so much that if you
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look at "heroes" for my daughter, there was an entire page, one of the heroes is the crew and passengers on united flight 93. let me tell you about why i'm particularly interested in that story. that is, my wife on 9/11, we were living here in washington, d.c., and my wife worked at the u.s. capitol. she was nine months pregnant and our son, you say nine months pregnant, she was nine months pregnant and was driving to work and the planes had just hit in new york, and hit the towers, and my wife was driving to the capitol, and she says to herself you know, i wonder if they're going to up security at the capitol. then she stops the car on the side of the road on 9/11 and says wait a minute, we have terrible security in the capitol. she pulls on the side of the road, she calls me and says i have a bad feeling about what's going on there today, i don't think i should go to work.
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i said then you shouldn't go to work, turn around, come home. she turned around and came home. and of course, we know what happened at the pentagon. we know what happened in new york. but that pennsylvania flight, flight 93, that beemer and those amazing people were on, that plane was headed for the capitol. some say it's the white house, some say it's the capitol but if you look at the plaque that honors them, it's in the u.s. capitol. that's always been my take, the signal was it was going there. i believe it was going there. i'm not saying that the plane was coming in right as my wife pulled into work and they saved her life. but i do know that but for those people, my life is profoundly different. they are heroes regardless of my personal stake in that story. but 100%. that's why i dedicated it to them. i owe them forever. >> ruth, billings, montana, go ahead, please. >> caller: yes. mr. meltzer, james was talking
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about the archivist. >> oh, yeah. yeah. he was talking about the inner circle, right? >> caller: yes. >> i know. that's what i said. i wanted to tell him that, too. got to get him to buy more books. >> caller: but your research and your life are amazing. my favorite novelist was taylor caldwell and she plugged me into all this. she wrote historical novels that made you feel like you were there. i felt like i was in the archivist room. and i'm about 80 and i had a little eye problem, and i do all of the books i do on tape. >> oh, yeah. >> caller: wondering if you are going to do all your new things on tape. >> yeah. let's talk about that. my grandmother, who you just saw in the video, when she turned -- when she reached her 90s she could no longer, she was a huge reader. the only real reader in our family.
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she could no longer read because she went blind and i remember we just had -- we were just starting audiotapes back then. they were cassettes, doing audio books. i gave her scott brick, who always has read all our books who i think is the best audio book reader of anybody. i didn't like the first guy they gave us and they gave us another person, it was like that's not a great match. then we got scott brick, the audio book reader. i played it for my grandmother and i said what do you think. she said to me bradley, he sounds handsome. i knew right there that was our guy. i wanted a guy who was handsome. but all kidding aside, it changed my grandmother's life. i would make sure that she always got an audio book. to answer your question, absolutely they are on audio book. "the escape artist," every single book i have written, they are all on audio book and all read by scott. "the first conspiracy" the new george washington book about the
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secret plot to kill george washington, he just finished recording a week and a half ago and he's going to be doing the audio for that, too. trust me, even if you can't see it, grab it on audio or anywhere you can get it. they're all there. >> matthew mercer, harris sandler, 2005, "the secret game." >> i'm going to do this without the spoiler. this book came about, i told you my first job was i was 18 years old and i used to work at the senate judiciary committee. this was a story i heard back then. there were two staffers who would make little bets, they would make bets like oh, i bet i can, you know, guess how many pencils are in your drawer. i bet i can guess what time we are going to go to lunch. i bet how many votes will be on a bill. then it just started escalating. then the rumor that i heard was that one of them said i bet i can put two words in the senator's speech and he will never know it. the words dry cleaning. tired of picking up the
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senator's dry cleaning and sick of picking up his dry cleaning and so i said let's put the word dry cleaning in his speech. he said you can't do that and want to bet. i forget the rumor because it was so long ago but the whole story is like a blur to me. i will never forget it, it said people think the environment is something that is dry, however cleaning it should be the first priority. dry cleaning was in a speech in the way he never knew. i love that story. i was 18 years old. that was singularly the greatest story i had ever heard because it was a way to show that you who think you are in power are not really in power. that there are so many people behind the scenes who have far more power than you do. i don't think i realized back then why i loved that part of the story. i certainly know now why i do. my whole core belief system. i said why don't we do a book where you have satisfy taffers
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truly gambling on congress. it's escalated past putting words in congressmen's speech but how many votes can we get on this bill, i bet i can get 200, bet i can get 250, i bet you can't get over 230, want to bet. and the bet is made. that's the zero game. it's members of congress betting on bills. the craziest part, when i was researching the book, it started happening. people started telling me stories that it really happened. that's when you know you're on to a good plot. you're not competing with reality but where people say to you oh, my gosh, yeah, i heard someone was doing that. i remember when i was doing the book about george washington's spy ring still existing today, the inner circle, i was doing the sequel for that book, "the fifth assassin" and i went to one of the top people in the cia. huge guy. i said my book is about george washington's spy ring still existing, i just want to do research on it. he said oh, yeah, i heard they're still around. i said no, i made that up. he was like yeah, i heard they're still around. when the head guys at the cia
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tell you that, you're like what are you -- you feel like now you're like oh, my gosh, my phone is bugged, this is it. that's when it gets cool. so matthew mercer and harris also had, they were the main characters in "the zero game" and "the zero game," i can't even do it without ruining it, has the single best twist i have ever written. i wanted to see -- >> give us a tease. >> i will give you a tease. i was basically like can you kill the character that no one thinks you're going to kill. that's the best way to do it. and i have to say, the question was can you kill a first person narrator. right? you have a first person narrator who is narrating the book, can you kill that character midstream. or is that the unbroken rule? you can't kill him. that's the first person narrator. once you hear the words, you know, i am bored today and i want to go to work today and i want to do this, you're like he's our narrator, he will take us to a place, tell us a story,
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he's safe, everyone else is fair game. why? why are they safe? says who? who wrote these rules? i said can i do that, can i somewhere in the middle of the book take that away. i said i don't know if i can or i can't, but that to me is the best reason to try. the first book i ever wrote, when i wrote "the tenth justice" it was third person narrator. bensweating like a pig and it wasn't supposed to be that way. i said to my editor at the time can you go to like first person and third person and do them both at the same time? so one person says i was sweating and the next chapter, you get in i was really nervous? he's like no, no, they all have to be third person. i was like okay. the second book, i said i'll do two narrators. he said okay. then he said you can't do third and first. i was like well, let's try. the third book, i finally realized let's give it a shot and i did. i got to the fourth book, then i got to "the zero game" and i was like can you kill a first person
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narrator. they said no, you can't do it. i said says who, who's they? every book to me is me trying to figure out in the form and not to get artsy-fartsy about it but when someone says you can't do it, that's the best reason to try. just to see if it's possible. because to me, know when you read someone's book and you have been reading them, especially in our genre where someone has written thrillers or mysteries or legal thrillers, whatever that genre is, whether they have written 10 or 12 of them, 15 or 20 of them, you're like i read that person in the beginning, they were good in the beginning but now they're kind of like whatever, what's going to happen, it's connect the dots. know why that happens? the author is bored, too. the author has been writing that character for 20 years and they're bored. when i started writing, i remember i said i never want to be that person. i never want to be that author who feels like man, i'm bored, i did it so much, i don't want to do it again. every book i've written i try to find that thing i've never done before and try it there.
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that's why i found nola in this book. can i find this character that i just don't trust, what do you do with that. what do you do when your hero is the most dangerous character in the whole book. can i pull that off? i don't know. let's see. to me that's, you know, that's what makes me feel like it's going to be interesting. to me, when you are reading a good book, and you feel like it's just leaving the station like a train that's barreling out of the station, it's because the reader is feeling that because the writer loves what they're doing. they know there's a passion. the x factor is that the writer loved what they're doing. to me, that's what you got to have. every book you do. if you don't feel like that, don't start the book. >> vic, thanks for joining us in san bruno, california. you're next. good afternoon. >> caller: yes, thank you. good afternoon. mr. meltzer has been talking about the question why and who benefits, and i wondered if he's ever thought about taking on a subject a lot of people seem to stay away from and that's the jfk assassination. >> yeah. no, listen, that's my number one of all the great stories.
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we actually did tackle it. i am so obsessed with it that we put it in our "decoded" book where we counted down the ten top conspiracy theories. the thing that's great about the jfk one is it has the best stories. it also has the craziest stories. i remember when i first got into doing this, that was the first conspiracy theory ever heard and i talked about sherman, whose life got saved when we helped find her a kidney, but the reason why she got me turned on to history is i was in 11th grade and she brought in a big monitor on a rolling cart. when you're in high school and the rolling cart comes in with the tv, nou thatyou know that'st day of all because you're going to see a movie. the movie she put on for us was the jfk conspiracy movie. it wasn't one of those crazy ones that says everyone was trying to kill them and they were all there from every side. it was one of those ones that asked the actual true logical questions that deserved to be
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asked to this very day which is how does jack ruby get through an entire police station full of cops and no one stops him. what is lee harvey oswald doing in russia for all those years, as someone who served in the military, and no one knows anything about him? even with the release of the documents last year, this past year, there are still unanswered questions. those are logical, good, fair questions to be asked. >> and why they took lee harvey oswald in a public setting. >> right. why parade him through where people had access to him. i think many of these things are like the supreme court definition of pornography which is you know it when you see it. we know when something just smells wrong. we just do. but what's great about the jfk story is when you really dig, some of the things have completely unanswerable questions and deserve to be asked and some are actually just based on lies that have been bred into us. ...
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>> guest: want his movie to be a response to it. so he added characters and facts and details that weren't even true. and the average person, however many millions of people saw that movie, took that movie as true going, oh, my gosh. wait a minute, there was ab awed to -- an audiotape? where'd that come from? jfk, the movie, it says no one has ever been able to recreate the shot that lee harvey oswald took. i remember when i was watching that movie, oh, he couldn't have done it. it's too hard, it's too far, it's impossible too old. there's the answer. >> host: have you been to dallas? >> guest: i've been to dallas. here's the problem with that story. i went to dallas. it's not that far. it's actually a really easy
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shot. in fact, what they didn't tell you in jfk is tons of people have recreated that shot. marine after marine has recreated that shot. in fact, the marines, to be a sharpshooter, have to make a shot like that even further away. but we watch the movie, and i'll tell you no one's made that shot. it's just not true. >> host: this is from phoenix. it's an e-mail that is directly related. this viewer is in 11th grade. as a history buff, first, what can we do to make history, to give it -- make it exciting to a new generation. and secondly, how do we change the education, k-12, with regard to history? >> guest: yeah. that's a great question. he or she is going to be sitting here. make sure you mention me on your interview when steve and i are long dead or we're old and -- you and i are going to call in today. i'm calling from boca raton! [laughter] by the way, that joke just killed in boca. it crushed in boca.
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but he asks a really vital question. i went to the history department at the university of michigan which is where i majored in history. i said, what's the biggest problem that you're facing today? the biggest problem that they're 235eusing in history departments around the country is when i was a kid and i wanted to be a history major, you know what my parents said? okay, go do it. the number one problem they're facing is that parents across the country when their kid says they want to be a history major, their parent says you're going to make no money, don't do it. and all across many of these liberal arts ideas whether it's sociology, history, anything else, you're seeing over and over again parents interfering and saying you're not going to make money. so they're just having trouble -- the departments are getting decimated because they can't get the funding, they can't get kids to sign up. when you have less kids, you get less funding, less funding, less faculty, and they start losing it. that's a disaster. so we have to change that. you just need to do that. so i think the first way to
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start is, like, parents out there, stop telling your kids that they can't make money in history. that's it. i think i've solved the problem. i think we're done. but all kidding aside, the thing that he asked us, the first is the more important question which is how do you make it interesting. i will say that i saw this thing at the national book festival this past year, brian selz nick gave this incredible speech. for those who don't know, a children's book illustrator. he's the new illustrator on the harry potter books. he's who they hired to redo all the covers for the harry potter books. and brian gave this incredible speech, and he said, you know, i never read harry potter, he said. and he read it recently, and when he read it, he was struck by that idea that harry and ron and hermione, they were facing with this horrible kind of dictator who were trying to take
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power, and anyone who spoke against him, he would attack. anyone who dared challenge him, he would attack. and he would use the actual system of government in the magical world. he seized power in there. he got the ministry of magic. he grabbed the power of the entire -- he didn't just fight from the outside, but he grabbed power from the inside and put his thumb down. and anyone who spoke against him, he would come down with this totalitarian attack. but these kids realized that the adults weren't going to save them. the adults were never going to save them. that if you want to see change happen, the kids had to do it themselves. he didn't mention gun control, he didn't mention what happened in florida or anywhere else, in vegas, anywhere else. he said, but when you look, these kids that are out there today -- like this 11th grader who just wrote to us -- they have been raised on harry potter. they have been armed with harry potter since they were 5 years old. they have learned that when you see something like that, someone
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in power who's abusing it, that you must rise up because the system won't save itself, you have to save everybody. and he's like, and that's how you're going to get freedom back, and that's how you're going to get power back. and that hit home for me. he didn't have to say the name donald trump or anyone on the democratic side, anyone -- it was rousing. and i think that the answer to that 11th grader's problem is that 11th grader as it always should be. how do i make it more interesting, he's going to write the interesting book that's going to bring people back, she's going to write the incredible lecture that's going to bring people back. >> host: another question from our colleague who loved your book, inner circle, president orson wallis and the role of st. elizabeth. >> guest: yeah. this is a good one. orson wallace is the -- i have hidden, as someone who loves mysteries and who loves digging through things to find that golden nugget. i've hidden more hidden things
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in my books than anyone will ever find. just to start from book one, the villain in book one who gets arrested, you actually find out what happened to him if you are a really close reader and you read book two. it's buried in there, but if you look and you pay close enough attention, it's there. orson wallace has been there a long time too. he's the president here, and he's in this little universe, and you'll see him elsewhere. he shows up many other places. what doesn't show up is st. elizabeth's, and that was a fantastic place. is when the book opens up, as we talked about, with this nascar race with this guy who comes out and shoots at the president, and i always base that shooting -- i spoke to many people who were on ronald reagan's secret service team when he was shot. it was one of the assassinations where, of course, where a president lived. but what happened to all those people who served there. as we all know until, actually,
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recently the shooter of ronald reagan, john hinckley, went to st. elizabeth's. and st. elizabeth's held this person who tried to kill the president and kept him there. st. elizabeth's is so close to where we are in downtown d.c. and i went there and was blown away by what i saw there. they gave me, again, incredible access to it. i don't want to ruin the book, but the things you see there and the stories you hear there were based on real people that were there. and i just, you know, when you're building a villain, you must, as important as your hero is in any of these thrillers, you must build a real villain. you must build a person that's real. and i remember at st. elizabeth's and some of these other institutions where they would tell me that, you know, for the calm people down when they were angry, they would have a labyrinth outside that they could just walk through, like one of those grassy labyrinths made of rocks and, you know, yea high in grass. they could walk through and just walking through the maze was a
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therapeutic endeavor. i was like, oh, that's going in a book. all these things they do with people who are, you know, trying to kill those we love. i became obsessed with that. so all the st. elizabeth details you see in that book came to life. >> host: donald, you're next, oak grove village, illinois. thank you for waiting. >> caller: a great privilege to talk to brad meltzer, especially on booktv. i've been watching for a long time, and i think it's a great service to america, because history is the foundation of all -- well, we have to all know. i'd like to ask him if he's going to make any movies or documentaries from the books he's written? my family was involved in a nice set of golden circle. >> guest: let's talk about it. okay, let's talk about it. >> host: thank you, donald. >> guest: thanks, donald. you're a man of history, which i appreciate. the knights of the golden circle, when the civil war happened and the south was
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falling, there was the civil war gold, the confederate gold was put on a train, and the idea was we're going to put all our money, you know, we lost, we're done. we'll put the money on a train, and we'll send the money south and, basically, we're going to hide the money, and the implication is that one day when it's ready, the south will rise again. and the guardians of that were supposedly the knights of the golden circle. now, it actually came from a group during the civil war that wanted to have, was so angry with slavery being disrupted that they wanted to form their own golden circle, an area where slavery would be legal. that's where it really came from. that was the start of it. but what it eventually evolved into in the kind of story of history was they were supposedly the guardians of the civil war gold and the confederate gold. the great part of the story and the great mystery, which we dealt with on decoded, was the
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money -- the gold never got there. it disappeared therefore. to this day, nobody knows where the gold is. there's a story breaking right now of some guys that thought they found it and government operatives, basically they think, took it out from under their hands. the knights of the golden circle was supposedly they had these sentinels who guarded the gold. they supposedly put marks on trees that told you where it was. needless to say, i thought that would be a really good group to deal with in a book. and when you read the fifth assassin and you read the president's shadow, it deals completely with the knights of the golden circumstance and what they're up to. to me, it still exists to this very day. >> host: you covered some of this earlier, but this is from sean who says when will we get another novel? not that i'm impatient. okay, maybe a little, i am.
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>> guest: yeah. i'm slow, i admit. i'm slow when it comes to writing the fellowers. -- thrillers. for 20 years now i can just go two years at a time. i know people, god bless them, they put out a book every year. if i did them, they would be garbage. god bless the men and women who do it. but to me, the research -- as you can tell, i hope -- means so much to me. and i like spending six more months. so the next thriller is a nola and zig book. i'm working on it now. the next book is the secret conspiracy comes out in january, january 8th, and i am billie jean king comes out right after that. but again, film and movie, we are working on it. i just actually spoke with someone who we've been working with. the hard part of making a movie -- and we've optioned and sold many of the books to movies, but it's hard to make it happen especially in this day is when superhero are what you see
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in movies. where was the last time you saw a mary higgins clark movie? john gish sham? as you see with my friend michael connolly doing the great bosh series, those things are not in movies anymore. if you don't have special effects and a cape, you're not going to see it in a movie. those of us who love this world and love this genre are trying to find great partners who will do that long form story job telling. >> host: and this tweet from ian says who are your biggest influences when it comes to writing, in particular comic books that you've worked on? >> guest: yeah, the comic books, and they are my biggest writing influences. bar nobody, it's alan moore. alan moore is this british writer who wrote watchmen, vendetta and many other things. but watchmen, to me, is the pinnacle of what any book can accomplish. it is the book -- i used to reread it every single year. i just actually finished my
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rereading. i hadn't read it in about three years. it's the one book i can go back to and reread it every time. i love neil, i love brian, i love tom king and what he's doing, my friends like jeff johns or i can name them, mark miller, who's doing wonderful things, jason aaron, who i think are all incredible writers. and even more artists that are out there, i think. my college roommate is judd winnik, one of the great writers of -- does kids books like hilo about a little robot who just is as heart warming and as moving as anything you're going to read. so i think that there are great stories out there, i just love hero stories. i do. and i think, you know, stan lee recently passed away, and the reason i love these stories is not that i love characters who wear their underwear on the outside of their pants, but what i love about these stories and what i love about stan lee or
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jerry and joe schuster who created superman is those stories gave me a foundation to live by, a moral foundation. it taught me, you know, they gave me the pillars of my senses of right and wrong. and what i loved is that those characters were being good because it's good to be good. that's why we should be good. that is an incredibly powerful, important lesson that we've lost sight of, right? being good for the sake of it. what we've learned over the years, we've learned how to fight. we've learned that from comics. fighting and punching each other, we're great at that as a culture. but if you're just fighting for yourself or you're fighting for politics or you're fighting because you're a corporation and you want more attention or you're fighting for something like that, you've already lost as far as i'm concerned. we need to get back to that idea of just being good and kind for no other reason than it's right. and what i love about those lessons that comics give us is
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that we can still use that lesson every day. i know it's crazy, but if you lived your life like superman, if you lived your life like "batman," that is a good thing. in batman every day he knows he's going to fail. he's batman because he wants to stop crime from existing because his parents were killed. he's never going to do it. he is never going to stop all crime. he's never going to do the mission he starts with every day. he'll never accomplish it, but tomorrow he's going to try again. and the next day he's going to try again too. and that lesson of persistence is a powerful, beautiful one. superman's lesson of truth, justice and the american way? on those days when i say i'm going to run for president, and i think 'em, right? because we look around told, you're like, my gosh, if anyone could be it, i know what my motto would be, truth, justice and the more than way. that is 100% what i would run on. that is what we're missing today. truth and justice and the
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american way. and those lessons came to me when i was a kid. they're still just as valuable today. >> host: would you run for office? >> guest: i mean, listen, i stay in my world of fiction, but trust me, there are moments where i get just as mad as anyone else out there and say someone needs to step forward. that's the only way the world changes. >> host: so what do you think of the president? >> guest: you know, i do not believe -- i'm going to, not to just kind of switch the subject, but i just don't believe in -- it's easy for us to sit here and say why'd he do this, why does he do that. there are other things i look at and i go, you know what? you can't, you can't take our greatest enemies and be nicer to them than you are to our own people. you can't. those are the things that you see right now. you're starting to see, we talked about it before, but the republicans and democrats are starting to realize one thing they agree on, is you've got to treat americans better. and, listen, i'll be the first one to say it, like, you've got
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to, got to not going them. when you start going those people, you're on the wrong side of history. okay? that is it. we are, all of us, at some point in time somewhere in this country traced back to someone who came from elsewhere. you know? the great hero of all of us, right? think superman himself is truly an immigrant from another planet that comes down here. he becomes a journalist, right? he's like almost the embodiment of what donald trump hates the most. he's a journalist and an immigrant. that's what superman and cardiac kent are together -- clark kent are together. when you start generalizing about an entire group of people, about an entire religion, about an entire culture, you're doing it wrong. you're doing it wrong. >> host: let's go to kit here in washington d.c. good afternoon, kit. hello? try one more time for kit?
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okay, we'll go to franklin in yonkers, new york. >> guest: finally, new york represents. [laughter] >> caller: hi there, good afternoon. yes, mr. meltzer, before my question i just want to address what you were just saying about the importance of being a hero and such. and i just really think that it's vital for especially privileged, white males like myself and yourself, we have to be more honest about racism in this country. for example, everyone's talking about on the news about george h.w. bush. in the '60s he was a horrible racist. there's an article called bush and the blacks by jefferson morley that was in the new york review of books in 1992. bush was against the civil rights act, he was against blacks having the right to eat in restaurants and hotels. there's about -- >> guest: yeah, no, let's talk
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about that. no, this is a good one. let's talk about this. i was actually reading just about that, and the amazing thing is you're right about that. george bush did run against that act. he did. the amazing part is, is when he got into congress, he voted the opposite way. to the consternation of everyone in texas at the time who was, like, you bastard. you said you were going to do something about that, and he actually did the right thing. and i can't, i can't possibly with a straight face sit here and say, my gosh, that takes away everything else that was said and done, and everyone is a saint and everyone does the right thing. it's a complicated story. his is a complicated life. as all of ours are, right? if i would have judged you, the caller who just called in, by your worst moment, i'm not doing you a disservice. you sound like a good man. you sound like a fine person. but if i take that one day where you did that thing you regret and you live with that and say that's who you are for the rest of your life, i haven't painted
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you fairly. you're complicated. but the thing you started with is the thing you are right, i'm a white kid from brooklyn, new york. you're from yonkers. and i know that i can't possibly, when i write these things, have the perspective of everyone i write about in history. when we did i am rosa parks, i know my own limits. i know where i'm going to be. so i went to leaders from the civil rights movement. when we did i am martin luther king jr., i went to john lewis himself read that book and proofed it for us because he was there with dr. king. when we did jane jane goodall, s like i don't know what it's like to be here. when we did sacajawea, i went to the smithsonian american museum. i think it goes back to what we were talking about earlier. if you want to change the world, it's easy to say that guy did this and this woman did that. you can find something about everyone. every book that i've written, every hero i've written about in
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the i am series when we write these children's books, every one of them has a problem, right? george washington owned slaves, and abraham lincoln had, you can find some political problems with. you can find racist things about gandhi. just as that caller just found with george bush. but if you are looking for perfection, you're not looking at human beings. the only thing that's perfect is god. that's it. that is my core belief too. and if you're looking for perfect human beings, you're always going to be disappointed. so rather than going that guy did this and what about him and he did that and he did this, why not -- and this is so vital -- why not have a little bit more tolerance? that's what the world could use right now. >> host: and you will be at president bush's funeral on thursday? >> guest: i will be. >> host: if you were to deliver a eulogy, what would you say? what would you write? >> guest: i wrote a bit about him. i mean, what i would write about, um, listen, i'll tell you what i write about him that i
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wish someone would write about me, and that is he loved his family. he certainly loved his sports. but he loved the idea of service. and that's the thing. it's easy to love your family. even for a crazy family, it's easy to love your sport. it's easy to -- to love your family. it's easy to love sports or whatever your passion is. he loved service. he doesn't need to do it anymore. look how many past presidents do nothing. they go and play golf and do their thing. he doesn't need to do that, but he passionately believed that you changed the world through service, that that one person going and doing that can change the world. and that's what i would talk about when i talk about him, is that man who, you know, when you ask the secret service about -- i always ask the secret service about the president that they protect. they don't love everyone they protect. and when you get them alone, they'll tell you. and there are so many presidents that they don't like. they all loved -- every single
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secret service agency spoke to loved george h.w. bush. they all said the same thing, he would ask me about my family, he'd ask me about my hobbies, he knew me by name. and character is not that thing that everyone sees. character is who you are when no one's looking. and that's who he was when no one was looking. that's what i would say about him. he was always that kind person. he was always that generous person. and, of course, i'd talk about him and world war ii. i mean, when that plane was going down and he said, you know -- and he's, you know, a kid, the first thing he did is he tried to turn the plane so the slip stream didn't hit the door so that the side door could open up so that john delaney, and i'm forgetting the other person who was on the plane, there were two other men on that plane with him. and rather than just jumping out and bailing out, he turned the plane so that the door would open so they could get out first before him. and when he landed and he crashed, he's vomiting, he's bleeding, he's crying, and those
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men died. he lived and they died. but what they gave him more than newing else was an appreciation -- more than anything else was an appreciation of life. and he never forgot that. >> host: mary ann, you're next in bayside, new york. >> caller: wow. it's -- thank you. it's a privilege to talk to you, and that's like an amazing thing that now i'm going to try and follow up with my question. the health care profession, which is totally different than what you were just talking about, the health care industry in this country is, it's in such terrible shape with 250,000 people a year dying of hospital accidents according to johns hopkins university, that was in 2017. and we pay more than any other country on the planet for health care according to the world health organization. we get the worst health care. and personally, every elder
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relative in my family close to me died of some hideous hospital, ridiculous thing. and my background is in animal science and agriculture. i see livestock being -- >> host: i've got to jump in, because we only have a minute or two left. your question. >> caller: okay, my question. why isn't this addressed in the media? in entertainment? >> guest: yeah, let's talk about it. you know, because, again, who benefits? when, if you'd ask me what i think our biggest single system, and let's allot more time for questions, so i'll keep it short. but when you have a governmental system that is focused on being run by people with money, when money is the thing that runs it, who benefits tells you the answer right there. why is it so hard? because the health care industry is spending billions of dollars to convince your congressman and
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congresswoman to vote in a way that favors them. they get a bigger donation than from you in bayside, new york. to me, if you want to solve of the problem, you've got to take money out of the system. those with more money are going to have more influence. the moment people have more influence, our system is doing it wrong. >> host: nancy, springfield, virginia. good afternoon. >> caller: good afternoon, mr. meltzer. in one way, i've been alive today because of george h.w. bush because he signed the americans with disabilities act. >> guest: he did, indeed. >> caller: but i'm calling to ask him to clarify his remark a moment ago about how mr. trump, whom i support, should -- couldn't treat other people better than he did americans and then turned around and talked about how anybody could, that the country was founded by immigrants. and i disagree with that because the country was founded for ourselves and our posterity. so said our founding document. and i wondered if he's, why he's
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never said anything about mr. jefferson? because george washington was terrific, but it was jefferson that gave us the country worth fighting for. and especially want to point out that it was mr. jefferson's virginia statute of religious freedom which has never been replicated any place on the planet that was responsible for mr. joshua levy buying monticello when it was falling into disrepair. >> host: nancy, thank you. >> guest: thanks, nancy. listen, i totally agree with you. thomas jefferson's one of my favorites. we want to do an i am thomas jefferson book. one of the, listen, one of the greatest minds we've ever had, someone who everyone will also tell you, oh, my gosh, he owned slaves. so, again, not perfect, complicated but incredible. but to answer your question, what i -- just to follow up very quickly is what i was talking about is, you know, when you see our president -- i'll do it like
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this, because i don't want to turn this into every person who loves trump calls in or every person who hates trump calls in because then we've lost sight of what we're really talking about. but what i was talking about is if you look at how much time he has spent with -- we know who our enemies are in the world. that's the one thing that's always beautiful today, right? we know that vladimir putin tried to interfere with our election and throw it one way or the other, tried to interfere with it. we know that saudi arabia has done some major harm and most recently to an american citizen. those are the bad guys. it's not hard. they'll even admit, they're the bad guys. and when i see yesterday the head of russia and the held of saudi arabia getting together -- head of saudi arabia getting together and afterring, i'm worried as an american citizen. that makes me go, we're doing it wrong. and when so much time is spent yelling here on twitter and in other places about not that,
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you've got to -- why, why do you not argue about putin? why are you not arguing about saudi arabia? why are you not going after our enemies? why are you going after americans? that -- and, again, not to get into why you should vote for one or the other, but again, who benefits? who benefits 234 who benefits? who benefits? who benefits? ask that question, you'll always find your answer. >> host: our conversation with you, we go back to nonfiction next month, and that's a segway to talk about your new book on george washington. and i just want to quickly ask you about the beginning of the book and the words of benjamin franklin. we must, indeed, all hang together or most assuredly we shall all hang separately. why does that begin in your book? >> guest: because this is a book about loyalty. when you read the first conspiracy, i'm going to say -- i have to, obviously, save it because we have so much to talk
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about when the book comes out, but it bears repeating here for where we are as a culture. if we do not stand together, we most certainly fall apart by ourselves. and so i think for those -- and, listen, there are a lot of people who are going to figure out what their vote's going to be in a couple years, and they should judge by merits always. not by who you like, not by who makes you feel better, but judge by the merits. is the country in a better space? if it is, vote for your guy. .. >> i got other phone call from the agent. she said, wait by you phone,
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number 23 and 24 of the rejection letters willing be positive way. ed by the phone, picked up the phone and she said, sorry, kiddo, and my stomach bottomed out and i was devastated. every day, that i sit down to write, for 21 years now, more, i replay that moment. i replay where i was sitting, i replay the phone that i was on, one of those see, through phones, i could see the for make could desk with the swivel lamp on my left. the bed with nothing but a box spring and mattress, no headboard. i was looking over a terraced concrete floor. there was a fire station, one, two, three doors and i say those words, sorry, kiddo. and for 20 years, every day that it sit down to write, whether it's the "i am" books, the first conspiracy, anything i work on, i say the words, sorry, kiddo, sorry, kiddo, sorry, kiddo.
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20, plus years now. i never want to forget what it's like to have nothing. i never want to ever not be thankful for what i'm lucky enough to talk to imaginary friend all day and i certainly never, ever, ever want to think i made it. if i think i made it, i'm finished. i always want to be as young and humble and hungry was i as when i was 20-something years old, so, i'm the escape artist. i'm the escape artist. i'm not talking about escaping from some magic trick, we all have hole we're in and we got to get out by doing something different, make yourself a better person, trying be kind to someone. that's how you get out of your hole. you forgive, starting with yourself. that was harry houdini's greatest trick. i want to su thank you to every person who called in, sent a tweet, followed on facebook, the invisible army people. i get to sit here for 20 something years thanks to your
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kindness. >> on we then? >> @brad melter on twitter, affection.com slash brad melt, i'm coming in january for the first conspiracy all across the country, please come say hello. i'd thereof shake you hand. >> brad meltzer, thank you for you time. come back to c-span often. we appreciate it. >> always. you're watching booktv on c-span2. next, former loyola law school project for the innocent director, lara bazelon, discusses restorative justice. then military historian max hastings provide a history of the vietnam war. later representative jacky spear talk but her memoir, undocumentedded, surviving jones town, summoning courage and fighting back. that's a look at the next three programs on c-span. starting now, here's lara bazelon on restorative justice

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